Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 305 – Andrew Moffatt – How Sample Quality has Changed and What you can do to Adapt

My guest today is Andrew Moffatt, Partner & Chief Strategy Officer at OpinionRoute. 

Founded in 2013, OpinionRoute is a services and software company focused on quantitative market research. They are most widely known for their CleanID offering designed to identify survey participants who are bots or survey farms. 

Prior to joining OpinionRoute, Andrew spent 17 years at Survey Sampling International which was acquired by Dynata where he started as a Sales Director and moved up to SVP, Global Strategic Partnerships. 

Find Andrew Online:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-moffatt-7064422/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/moff727 

Website: https://www.opinionroute.com/ 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil  

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp  

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch  

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp  

Website: www.happymr.com  

Music:

“Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com

This Episode’s Sponsor:

This episode is brought to you by SurveyMonkey. Almost everyone has taken its surveys, but did you know that SurveyMonkey offers complete solutions for market researchers? In addition to flexible surveys, their global Audience panel, and research services, SurveyMonkey just launched a fast and easy way to collect market feedback, with 7 new Expert Solutions for concept and creative testing. With built-in, customizable methodology, AI-Powered Insights, and industry benchmarking, you can get feedback on your ideas from your target market–in a presentation-ready format, by the way–in as little as an hour. 

For more information on SurveyMonkey Market Research Solutions, visit surveymonkey.com/market-research. Mention the Happy Market Research Podcast to the SurveyMonkey sales team before June 30th, for a discount off of your first project. 


[00:00:02]

Jamin Brazil: Hi. I’m Jamin Brazil. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. My guest today is Andrew Moffatt, partner and chief strategy officer at OpinionRoute. Founded in 2013, OpinionRoute is a services and software company focused on quantitative market research. They are widely known for their clear ID offering designs to identify surrogate participants who are either bots or come from a survey farm. Prior to joining OpinionRoute, Andrew spent 17 years at Survey Sampling International, which was acquired by Dynata where he started as a sales director and then moved up to SVP of global strategic partnerships. Andrew, thanks very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today.

[00:00:45]

Andrew Moffatt: Thanks for having me Jamin Brazil. Nice to be here.

[00:00:50]

Jamin Brazil: This episode is brought to you by Survey Monkey. Today almost everyone has taken a survey but did you know that Survey Monkey offers complete solutions for market researchers. In addition to flexible survey, their global audience panel and research services Survey Monkey has launched a fast and easy way to collect market feedback. They have seven new expert solutions for concept and creative testing. With built-in, customized methodologies, AI-powered insights, and industry benchmarking, you can get feedback on your ideas from your target market in a presentation-ready format. And by the way, in as little as an hour. For more information on Survey Monkey’s market research solutions visit Survey Monkey.com/market-research. That’s Survey Monkey.com/market-research. Mention the Happy Market Research podcast to the Survey Monkey sales team before June 30th for a discount off your first project. Before we jump into the company, I want to talk a little bit about yourself. Give us some context. Tell us about your parents and how they informed what you do today.

[00:02:02]

Andrew Moffatt: Sure. So I grew up in Ireland actually. And most of the states in my early 20s and actually moved straight from college in Ireland to Connecticut to work at SSI back in the late ‘90s. Before I guess ended up in the states, obviously grew up at home in rural Ireland and my mom and dad quite interestingly never really had a lot but never wanted for anything I would say at the same time. And grew up with cows at my back wall, not like you have here in some urban areas in the states. And my dad worked in a factory for gosh, probably 20 years doing shift work and making cheese and butter and things like that. And then all of a sudden one day decided to leave and take redundancy when he had five kids and arrived home one day and just couldn’t do factory life anymore. And from that redundancy my mom actually started her own business and had a video store in my local town. So we were the local Blockbuster as you could say. And then my dad took that same business and put it on the road into different parts of rural Ireland in the countryside. So like driving around in a van and delivering videos to people who didn’t have the means to get to a bigger town or just wanted to watch movies, which in those days you didn’t have Netflix, right? It was physical movies and showing up to people’s doors.

[00:03:42]

Jamin Brazil: This would have been like VHS cassette tapes, right?

[00:03:45]

Andrew Moffatt: VHS cassette tapes, exactly. And so I remember like sitting at my kitchen table looking through movies that would be coming out in the next three to six months and picking out which ones we wanted to buy for the store and it was quite fun. And obviously now I’m an entrepreneur today coincidentally, permanently left the non-entrepreneurial life around the same time my dad did. The one thing that I’ll say about my mom as she kind of ran the video store is that when that business fell apart due to Netflix and cable and all of those things, she didn’t just like shut the door. She actually created a new business in its place. So one week she had a video store and within two weeks later they converted the whole thing into like a dollar store kind of concept. And they still run that today. So it’s that resiliency in times of change and things like that that I admire a lot about them.

[00:04:44]

Jamin Brazil: Have you ever talked to your dad about why he wound up leaving the secure job?

[00:04:49]

Andrew Moffatt: Yeah, I have. And I think for him it was a lot about – he didn’t really have much of a life outside of going to work because when you’re doing shift work, he’d work one week 8 to 4; then 4 to 8; then 12 to 8. So it would be weeks when he wouldn’t get to hang out at home and had five kids, and got tired of that life and just packed it all in one day. And I guess in my life, I kind of had similar experiences. Before I left SSI, I was traveling quite a lot. I’d travel all around the world. I also left at a time when I felt their reasoning for being changed from not being in the forefront of sampling to chasing I think probably things like factories chase, which is more and more money to help drive the business. So I think there’s probably way too similarities to be comfortable in that – in those timelines and those reasons. But I think they were pretty similar.

[00:05:58]

Jamin Brazil: So as it relates, since you kind of connect or you found this period where we’re basically sequestered to our homes, or living areas, has it been a refreshing time?

[00:06:11]

Andrew Moffatt: I love this as weird as that sounds. Well, three years ago when I left SSI I stopped almost all business travel so I don’t really travel at all anymore. And that’s why listening to your podcasts is very great for me because I get to hear what’s happening in the market and the industry and trends and what people are doing. But it’s almost like I wanted to be home more than I was. And you start to see yourself more and hear yourself more and learn about yourself when you don’t have the same distractions. In a way it’s kind of helped me through what we’re doing right now, being quarantined because I’ve done that a little bit and done a lot of self-discovery over the past few years.

[00:06:57]

Jamin Brazil: How old are your children?

[00:06:58]

Andrew Moffatt: I have a 17-year old and a 9-year old.

[00:07:01]

Jamin Brazil: And both are at home?

[00:07:01]

Andrew Moffatt: So one is a junior and one’s in third grade. Yeah, they’re both at home, which has been the best part of this whole thing, just spending more time together.

[00:07:10]

Jamin Brazil: How has that changed that relationship if at all?

[00:07:13]

Andrew Moffatt: So quarantine or just being at home more?

[00:07:15]

Jamin Brazil: The byproduct of the quarantine really with respect to the fact that they’re not necessarily underfoot. I don’t know if they are or not but your proximity and access is certainly a lot greater.

[00:07:25]

Andrew Moffatt: Yeah. They’re doing good. They’re at home. They’re doing virtual schools. I think we’re getting to hang out more like everyone is trying to get out and go for a walk once or twice a day. We get to do that as a family. We do everything – like my son doesn’t have any after-school activities so he’s at home every day. And the less you have to do outside, the more you spend together. And that’s been the best part of the whole thing that we get to spend more time as a family and especially with my son going to college next year, having this time is quite invaluable. You don’t get time like this.

[00:07:57]

Jamin Brazil: It definitely created an opportunity for my family and I think many to create a reprioritization of time spent.

[00:08:05]

Andrew Moffatt: Yeah.

[00:08:05]

Jamin Brazil: As we look forward to the post-world. So it’s going to be interesting. It’s exciting to me to see what it looks like coming out of it. My hope is that we’re able to take some lessons from this time where we’ve really built intimacy at the family level.

[00:08:19]

Andrew Moffatt: Yeah.

[00:08:20]

Jamin Brazil: And leverage that forward as opposed to – I felt like society at large was becoming very white-knuckled in terms of just fitting more and more and more stuff in.

[00:08:31]

Andrew Moffatt: Yeah, I think that’s fair. That’s fair. And almost monotonous as well where you’re repeating things over and over again and it just gives you a chance to reevaluate and rethink what’s important and give things a chance to breathe for a change, including the earth, which has been quite fascinating to see the way pollution has gone down and things start kind of recovering in different parts of the world. It just shows you how little the earth needs in order to become healthier again. A couple of months of shutting down and you have fish showing up in canals that haven’t been there for ages.

[00:09:08]

Jamin Brazil: Which is funny because you might have more fishermen out.

[00:09:12]

Andrew Moffatt: At least they can work in isolation.

[00:09:16]

Jamin Brazil: Give us a little bit of context of OpinionRoute.

[00:09:18]

Andrew Moffatt: Yep.

[00:09:20]

Jamin Brazil: The business has been around since 2013 when you started out, what market problem is it addressing, and what is it addressing today?

[00:09:29]

Andrew Moffatt: Yeah. So when OpinionRoute started out with Terence is my partner because Terence McCarron is the founder, it was very much a service-spaced data collection business. So anything from programming through reporting and putting together a deliverable on the data collection side for clients. And I call it a model similar to MRops for those that know the industry. It was a business that we acquired at SSI and got to know pretty well. And really focused on high-touch, high-service, almost like a boutique sampling firm, if such a thing exists or a data collection firm. And getting senior-level contact and engagement done a lot of the work, which worked for certain clients. It’s certainly not a mass market product. And for those that cared for good service, kind of someone that you can put it into their hands and not worry about it, and a high-quality, data quality focused offering is really how that business grew. And really focusing on getting data sets that are actionable. And it’s kind of led to a lot of the technology products that we’ve built, kind of how we’ve built the data quality over the years. So our Clean ID product, which is in the fraud prevention space and B to B validation products, which is coming out shortly are really just products trying to scale out a lot of what we’ve been doing manually over the past number of years and trying to find the better, more scalable data-driven way to make decisions.

[00:11:20]

Jamin Brazil: Yeah, I think it was Reed Hasting but I might be mistaken that said do things that don’t scale.

[00:11:24]

Andrew Moffatt: He says that all the time. Actually did a masters of scale course at Harvard Business School with him last year and it was – he did the last lecture and he always says do things that don’t scale. And that’s a lot of what we’re doing right now was figuring out what clients are dealing with and putting together solutions that allow them to buy better or have better data in order to make decisions to move forward with.

[00:11:51]

Jamin Brazil: There is a lot of change that has happened in our ecosystem at a global level but now drilling into market research. In a lot of ways market research is coming more important for companies as their opportunities to interact with customers has shifted in many cases.

[00:12:10]

Andrew Moffatt: Yep.

[00:12:11]

Jamin Brazil: This is funny because having living through the.com bust and then the financial crisis, even 9/11, which is a major impact in the US, this is the first real global crisis that I’ve ever faced in my life and so what we’re seeing is I would say is some growth but maybe it’s not categorical inside of market research right now. So I’ve asked this question among about 350 people and I’m really interested in your answer today in this context. How will market research be different in the next few years?

[00:12:44]

Andrew Moffatt: It’s a good question. It’s impossible to predict except to say that technology will certainly be involved. And just doing what it’s doing today, just making things happen better, faster, cheaper whether we like it or not. And I think what you’re seeing is a creation of multiple platforms within the industry that are enabling companies to do a lot more with a lot less. So whether it’s the bigger organizations like a Kantar or an IPSOS, creating platforms, which is essentially try to take parts of their own workflows and systems and automate them as much as they can. And make them accessible to users and tying them to their brands as much as possible. And also you’re seeing platforms through the likes of Dynata, Incent, and Lucid, both in terms of consumer exchange models but also extending beyond the data collection process to try and take some of these guys on. So if you’re a supplier in one of those platforms, if you’re a competitor to one of those platforms, and you’re a small to medium sized research agency like how are you going to change and adapt in that new environment as maybe these platforms become places where people go and buy most of what they need. So I’m interested to see which ones stick around, which ones kind of emerge, and companies themselves change and evolve to both compete and partner in this new world. It’s always been an industry that’s thrived on healthy or unhealthy competition, right. And I think we’re going to see more of that as things change and evolve, and especially in the economic environment that we’re in, the things like this typically see things partner more than compete more and you know because it requires less investment. So we’ll see some interesting partnerships develop. I’m interested in your take as well actually.

[00:14:57]

Jamin Brazil: I think you’re exactly right. I mean technology continues to eat the world. I mean there’s no question about that. The better, faster, cheaper pick three. That’s something we’ve heard our whole lives and just continues to – I guess the wrapper now is agile, right.

[00:15:15]

Andrew Moffatt: Yeah.

[00:15:15]

Jamin Brazil: That absolutely exists. So there’s two things. I think quant is going to continue to grow dramatically as it becomes more and more accessible and easy to execute. So that’s where the benefit of tools that are easy to use is that more people can use them.

[00:15:33]

Andrew Moffatt: Exactly.

[00:15:34]

Jamin Brazil: And it democratizes access to market research. That’s certainly like this overall enablement of consumer insights. The other part of that that I think is going to be an emergent – I don’t know if it’s going to come out of market research but I certainly hope it does is sort of the education around how to use the insights, which I think is a big void right now.

[00:15:55]

Andrew Moffatt: Yeah, I would agree with you there.

[00:15:57]

Jamin Brazil: Once you create the tools that are easy, now you have people that are not sophisticated relative to market research of course. They’re much smarter than us in every other area. They need to understand what the application is of significant differences if that’s something that’s being reported on or what have you. Yeah, anyway I definitely think education is one of those pillars that’s going to change for us, an opportunity for us. We’ve entered into – in a lot of ways I think we’ve over-indexed as an industry on automating the sample piece.

[00:16:23]

Andrew Moffatt: Yes.

[00:16:24]

Jamin Brazil: It was really, really hard. I mean Cent tried it and did it early, very early and then Lucid, whatever, ten-ish years or 15 years later kind of moved into that space and very effectively created a two-sided marketplace. And now you’ve seen other companies that have spun out as well. I think the byproduct of that is what’s really interesting, which is almost like a black box. So SSI for the listeners who don’t know, SSI is probably the oldest, no longer existing but one of the very early sample companies before the internet. And in those days there were a number of ways that you would get access to humans for research. One was phone and SSI I believe had the dominant presence for if you wanted to do phone-based research, they had access to people that were willing to participate. Is that fair?

[00:17:12]

Andrew Moffatt: They weren’t panels per se. They were straight either random digit files or more targeted telephone sample. And in fact.

[00:17:20]

Jamin Brazil: Exactly. RDD, yep.

[00:17:24]

Andrew Moffatt: Where Terence and I met was at SSI when we were trained pre-online. That’s how we, my partner and I met. And we weren’t allowed on the phones or talk to clients or even engage with anyone outside of our organization without three months of in depth training on sampling methodologies from the likes of Linda Pakarsky [ph] and Jeffrey Lawrence and some other folks that were kind of leaders within that space.

[00:17:55]

Jamin Brazil: Absolutely, kind of the Bill Gates of sampling. So there used to be a lot of science that went into the actual creation of a sample frame and then the subsequent recruiting against those people into the projects. And I’m not saying it was all perfect but it was a lot of work. It was a lot of work and it needed to be a lot of work because it was very expensive and time consuming.

[00:18:12]

Andrew Moffatt: It’s also where that information was being used. It needed the level of regular and methodological selection that gave you confidence you had a robust sample of the population that you’re researching.

[00:18:26]

Jamin Brazil: So I’m going to dis – I agree with you conceptually but I think from a practitioner’s perspective I believe that there was a lot more sort of confirmation bias that we were trying to create than we see today. So I think the rules today are a lot different. Maybe that’s not entirely accurate but my experience, this was like a sample of one is that businesses have moved more to be consumer-oriented versus 25 years ago or whatever it is.

[00:18:53]

Andrew Moffatt: 100 percent.

[00:18:55]

Jamin Brazil: So anyway, that’d be a fun debate to have though actually. We should do that when this whole thing’s over with, with a couple beers. But the broader point here is that there’s a – there was a lot of rigor that went into sampling. And we functionally automated that whole pain right now, which it was very painful. When I say it was very painful, I promise you, it was like getting a root canal. And now it’s super-easy. Like we don’t even think about it.

[00:19:19]

Andrew Moffatt: Yeah.

[00:19:19]

Jamin Brazil: But the problem with that is it’s created like this hotbed of fraud because once you black box it you don’t really have any visibility on who the participant is that’s taking the research.

[00:19:32]

Andrew Moffatt: So I agree with you completely. And it’s a function of all that change and all that investment has basically directly caused much of this because if you look at like what a panel company like SSI, what essentially drove like two-thirds of their cost base would have been people and product. So people would be anyone engaged in the delivery of the products. We saw a lot of those dollars move towards lower cost or off-shore models like in India or the Philippines or Eastern Europe and various places. And in time through DYI tools, even saw some of that being pushed back onto the researcher. But on the supply side much of what you spent ten years ago was all double opt-in panels that were used as the supply source for the industry. So if you wanted to get something you were tapping into an organization’s supply that they had grown and built and incentivized and managed and engaged with on a daily basis. With the introduction of programmatic and integrating APIs into the supply chain, which is basically – basically now it’s resulted in every “panel” company or supply company being an aggregator of some kind. So they are aggregating their owns supply and the supply of others. And the supply of others is not always built in the same way that their own supply is. So you’re mixing in double opt-in panels with traffic that you have no history with and you know nothing about and as we said, it subjects itself to more potential fraud coming into the ecosystem because you lose a layer of validation that a double opt-in process gets you. And to me data quality and getting to real and unique respondents is probably the biggest challenge the industry actually has right now. And it’s a function of both how people are being sourced for surveys as well as the technology that is in operation within the industry to try and prevent fraud and prevent duplication and survey farms and things like that entering into the system to begin with, which is frankly why we created the product that we did in Clean ID because we didn’t find a good solution that existed in the market and we knew it was probably one of the biggest challenges. So that’s basically why we focused on building that first. We also built a B to B validation tool because as prone as the consumer research is to fraud and poor respondent behavior, we see that become infinitely worse within the B to B channels where in some cases it’s not uncommon to kick out 40 or 50 percent of your sample because you don’t think it’s accurate or represents what that market looks like. So to me, it’s probably a challenge that we took on as something that we wanted to technologically fix in an open, transparent data-driven way that gave people the opportunity to take data and use it and understand how fraud impacts their environment and be able to give them the tools to be able to solve that. I think that should cover for what I’m saying. I’m rambling a little bit.

[00:23:19]

Jamin Brazil: That’s a great point. No, that’s perfect. So this is a material issue because even if let’s say it’s 30 percent are bad respondents. The question is are you removing the right 30 percent.

[00:23:30]

Andrew Moffatt: Right.

[00:23:30]

Jamin Brazil: So the scalpel as opposed to the chain saw analogy is really important here. So technologically in simpleton’s terms, how are you able to identify good versus bad participants?

[00:23:44]

Andrew Moffatt: Yep. So what we essentially do is look at their device itself. And within the device actually look for characteristics that we know are known exhibitors of survey respondent fraud. So looking at a device and seeing how often any of its characteristics have changed. If an IP address is constantly changing or making itself to look unique or other parts of that machine, we’re able to tell that and you can then make a decision off of that data. So we’ve got 34 of those different markers that are available for people to make decisions based off of, make a decision whether this is so bad because this person’s coming in in an anonymized nature from the dark web. But if they come in, we don’t want them to be part of our environment. So let’s remove them completely. And then you’ve got other markers, which you can set as kind of low, medium, and high that their cumulative effect will allow you to make decisions on them. So if you’ve got someone that has hit a couple of high markers. That’s probably going to yield a score that’s going to remove them from your environment or if they hit one high marker and three low markers, they’ll remove that individual. And the beauty of it is that you can kind of see what’s happening in real time within a project. You can review what’s happening over time amongst your vendor set and see which channels are giving you most fraud or what types of fraud they’re giving, and giving the users that information is really what we’re trying to empower people to do. You talked earlier about lots of black boxes that are created within the industry. There’s supply black boxes where you don’t necessarily always get to control what goes into your studies and decisions on that supply from a routing perspective. We’re trying to, with our technology that will come out give people enough data so that they can own that responsibility themselves if they want to and understand it and help create their own profile that works for their own organization. And in a way that really is simple for them to understand and make decisions off of what the tools give them.

[00:26:07]

Jamin Brazil: Well we could talk a lot about the – getting into the weeds of this. It’s hard for me not to as an operator in this space for so long because there were a lot of technological challenges there but I think it might just put everybody to sleep.

[00:26:20]

Andrew Moffatt: It might.

[00:26:20]

Jamin Brazil: At the end of the day I really want more listeners.

[00:26:27]

Andrew Moffatt: But on the B to B side, it’s really – that is something that where I think is a game changer because as I said within B to B, so while much automation has happened in the programmatic space, it’s really all happened around consumer research. There’s not been a lot in the B to B space that’s been new or not a lot of new types of supply that’s entered into the industry in quite some time. While I was at SSI, I was part of a task force that was asked to help build B to B because a competitor to Research Now. In doing so we basically built the same model where we went out to the same airlines and hotels and gave them better return on investment for their marketing and they ended up shifting some dollars our way. But with the merger between Research Now and SSI that created just one large dominant player within B to B. And when I got out of SSI once I sent out my non-compete, the first thing I did was try to find a viable alternative. So I actually did a deal with an expert network who does a lot of qual that would engage respondents in conversations with private equity companies and consulting firms to help inform investment and acquisition decisions and actually used those guys for quant research for a good part of a year or 18 months or so. And what I did, and I put them against all the supply in the industry, and those same jobs that I referred to earlier where we’re kicking out 30, 50 percent of the respondents, we started removing less than five percent from the sources because of the nature of who they were. They were folks that had participated in qual engagements. They were already validated through their LinkedIn profiles or resumes and had telephone conversations for at least an hour with individuals. So we knew they were real people. And kind of set out to create a tool that would allow a panel or a database owner or a buyer sample to be able to use a tool to validate who’s in their audience. So if you’re a panel owner, to be able to take your panel and overlay B to B information both on a personal level, so what that person’s job is, and their function within that job, as well as their firmographic information about the size of the organization they work for, the industry, the name of the company, and things that would help inform sampling decisions when they needed them. So this is currently in the market in pilot mode with a bunch of clients right now. We’re fielding B to B jobs with validated sample versus non-validated sample to look at differences in not just removal rates but how they trend relative to market share and other things that would tell us that these are providing more accurate, more informed authentic business decisions at the end of the day. And working with some panels to provide them with some data sets that potentially help replace self-reported profiling within the panel world and for some companies, actually overlay a B to B asset onto a panel that may be consumer right now. So being able to take a consumer panel and figure out who’s actually in there that should be useable from a B to B perspective and be able to use them with confidence.

[00:29:51]

Jamin Brazil: Yeah, that’s actually a real interesting point that you’re making because B to B really is B to C in a lot of ways. I mean if you’re on LinkedIn, you’re probably on Facebook or Insta or what have you. So there is that cross-opportunity that exists.

[00:30:07]

Andrew Moffatt: 100 percent. And although you’re tending to find say lower-level people within consumer panels than you would say through a business panel, which makes sense, there’s still small business owners and employees of organizations that you can identify more freely and usually manager level and below is probably the highest level you’ll find within there with the exception of small business owners. But it opens up the pool of available respondents that you wouldn’t consider prior to this. And also for organizations that are looking to embed into their recruitment channels, being able to while someone is double opting-in, validate somebody by the time they go to click on the double opt-in email, you already know a lot more about this respondent. Then they could be your higher value return on investment panelist because they can yield five to ten x what a consumer panelist could yield. Then you can pass them differently. You can as I said overlay some of the known information on those respondents directly on there without asking those folks at the recruitment stage and kind of limit respondent engagement to what’s really necessary. There’s a lot of profiling and a lot of respondent time that’s taken up to date prior to them doing anything within an environment that we’re trying to eliminate as well as eliminate a lot of the backend headaches that exist for researchers and end clients in both cleaning data as well as making sure that the clean set of data has some real-world sensibility to it in terms of market share.

[00:31:48]

Jamin Brazil: Let’s shift gears. You have worked in SSI, one of the premier companies and now with the work that you’ve been doing at your current firm, and then probably even more broadly the fact that you’ve seen companies from small to big and interacted at an executive level as well as in the phone room, which I love that beginning story. What do you see right now as three characteristics of an all-star employee?

[00:32:15]

Andrew Moffatt: I can’t have one, and we can probably pick three things within it that make sense. But I really hire for attitude more than anything else. And within that attitude I look for someone who’s resilient. I think it’s a very important characteristic. It might be the most important of anything that I’ve seen; just someone to be able to pick themselves up and dust themselves off and be able to take their licks and move on. That type of character is hard to come by. Someone that’s willing to do anything. When my wife actually – she ended up working at SSI for a while but when she had her interview there they asked her what she’d do, she said she’d be willing to wash windows. And she really would. And so it was – but it’s someone that wouldn’t say something like this is not in my pay level or this is not in my job description, obviously those types of folks – the emphasis is on those types of people. And I think the last thing within there is to look for kind people, like people that have a good heart and I have some weird interview questions that I ask people that tend to get to those points. And it talks to kind of like your first question, talk about your parents and talk about how you grew up and you get to learn a lot about a person by getting them to talk about their lives, which I look for and really value in the interview process.

[00:33:55]

Jamin Brazil: It’s funny. Social media unfortunately has informed and also I think incorrectly informed our opinions of potential hires and employers. And one of the things I used to do with – speaking of humility – with Decipher when we were probably going from 20 to maybe 75 employees in that size. Jamie Plunkett would do the interviews as well as myself occasionally but one of the two of us would sit at the front and pretend we were the receptionist. And when that person would show up we’d actually do a part of the interview right there just to see how they treated the person.

[00:34:28]

Andrew Moffatt: I love that.

[00:34:29]

Jamin Brazil: Who was the perceived receptionist. Yeah, it was really funny. I think if you over-index on kindness, it’ll all work out.

[00:34:36]

Andrew Moffatt: It all works out. I actually have this receptionist that at a client that I’ve had for gosh, almost 20 years now, and I love her. She’s the first person you get to greet when you go there, the first person who always answers the phone, and you develop a relationship with these people over time. And I just think that that kind of experience is how you treat – you should treat everyone the same regardless of who they are. So whether it’s the secretary at the front desk or whether it’s the CEO when you go into an interview or maybe it’s the CEO at the front desk pretending to be the receptionist, but your character comes out on all of those moments. So I like that.

[00:35:16]

Jamin Brazil: My last question. What is your personal motto?

[00:35:20]

Andrew Moffatt: Worst thing they can do is say no. I’ve always kind of shot for the stars. Having grown up in rural Ireland, I never thought this was going to be part of my life and I remember one time very poignantly like I was in the Empire State Building, it was up on some large floor, and I looked out the window and I was like I can’t believe that I’m actually here in a meeting with – because it was such an iconic symbol. Growing up in Ireland you would look at the movies or whatever, and when I got to that point it wasn’t that long into my days of SSI I decided just to go for it. And it’s been a wonderful characteristic and trait to have. It’s almost like you ever see that movie Yes Man with Jim Carey? It’s trying to come up with some ideas and some people would say they’re impossible to make happen. And just seeing if we can make it happen. So I like to think and operate in those terms.

[00:36:17]

Jamin Brazil: My guest today has been Andrew Moffatt, partner and chief strategy officer at OpinionRoute. Thank you Andrew for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today.

[00:36:25]

Andrew Moffatt: Thanks, Jamin Brazil. I appreciate it.

[00:36:27]

Jamin Brazil: Everybody else who found value in this episode, please do me a favor, screen capture, share on social media. LinkedIn and Twitter are my two primary platforms but I’m trying to get to know TikTok, too. Look me up. If you tag me, by the way, I will send you a shirt. I promise. Have a great rest of your day. **

Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Steve Mast, President of Delvinia, on how to Transition Work from the Office to Home

My guest today is Steve Mast, President & Chief Innovation Officer at Delvinia.

Founded in 1998, Delvinia is a Canadian based Group of Companies that provide consumer insight and data collection solutions including Delvinia Custom Solutions, AskingCanadians, AskingAmericans, and Methodify.

Prior to joining Devinia in 2000, Steve has been a video game producer, architectural designer, and entrepreneur. 

Find Steve Online:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/stevemast 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/stevemast 

Website: www.delvinia.com

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil  

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp  

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch  

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp  

Website: www.happymr.com  

Music:

“Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com 

This Episode’s Sponsor: 

This episode is brought to you by SurveyMonkey. Almost everyone has taken its surveys, but did you know that SurveyMonkey offers complete solutions for market researchers? In addition to flexible surveys, their global Audience panel, and research services, SurveyMonkey just launched a fast and easy way to collect market feedback, with 7 new Expert Solutions for concept and creative testing. With built-in, customizable methodology, AI-Powered Insights, and industry benchmarking, you can get feedback on your ideas from your target market–in a presentation-ready format, by the way–in as little as an hour. 

For more information on SurveyMonkey Market Research Solutions, visit surveymonkey.com/market-research. Mention the Happy Market Research Podcast to the SurveyMonkey sales team before June 30th, for a discount off of your first project.


[00:00:03]

Jamin Brazil: Hi, I’m Jamin. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. My guest today is Steve Mast, President and Chief Innovation Officer at Delvinia. Founded in 1998, Delvinia is a Canadian based group of companies that provide consumer insights and data collection solutions, including Delvinia custom solutions, Asking Canadians, Asking Americans and Methodify. Prior to joining Delvinia in 2000, Steve has been a video game producer, architectural designer and entrepreneur. Steve, thanks so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today.

[00:00:38]

Steve Mast: Thanks, man. It’s great talking to you again.

[00:01:46]

Jamin Brazil: So the world has changed. It is March 27th, 2020. We’re going to talk about that in a minute. But before we do, let’s set some context. Tell us a little bit about your parents and how they have informed what you do today?

[00:01:59]

Steve Mast: Sure, well, first off, my mom actually she worked at the local hospital. She was a ward clerk, so she was a front line staffer if you will. So first and foremost, hats off to all the front line folks right now that are dealing with this crisis that we’re going through right now. So big shout out to them. My dad was in banking, pretty much so for 37 years, I thought about the years right. But he really loved to work with his hands. He actually didn’t really love banking, but back then, you were either a doctor or lawyer or a banker. That’s what you did when you got out of school but he loved to create. Particular to build furniture, homes, he built huge parts of our cottage. So he loved to work with his hands. And they both were really good at design, particularly they were very crafty, very resourceful people. So I think I kind of inherited a lot of that from them. Obviously when I got out of school, I had no desire to be in banking. Hence I had this sort of interesting career path which I sort of referred to as a squiggly line versus a straight line. Had really no idea then I loved design, took architecture, realized you probably don’t want me designing buildings because I think they would fall over. But I was always really good with digital, with computers. Things like the internet were sort of starting to come about at that time. My parents were super, super supportive in all my creative activities, got heavily into doing things like 3D animation, all these kinds of crazy things, particularly in university. So I got really good with ones and zeros, maybe not so much with hammer and nails. And so that really shaped who I am in my career.

[00:03:41]

Jamin Brazil: So you’ve been with Delvinia now, gosh, almost two decades, right?

[00:03:45]

Steve Mast: Yeah, 21 years.

[00:03:47]

Jamin Brazil: Prior to that, yeah 21 years. That’s amazing. So, prior to that Micro Forum, I believe is the name of the company as director of operations.

[00:03:53]

Steve Mast: That’s right. Yeah.

[00:03:55]

Jamin Brazil: Yeah. And that was the video game company. Why the transition from the video game company to market research?

[00:04:00]

Steve Mast: Do you got another podcast for that?

[00:04:06]

Jamin Brazil: That’s a big question. It’s a big change.

[00:04:09]

Steve Mast: Yeah, it is a little bit. So a couple things. One is that organization actually went through a lot of transformation as well. I think everywhere I picked in my career, I think I really learned to adapt because every one of those organizations seemed to transform. It went from video games into becoming essentially a marketing agency essentially, is what it became and started to bolt on more internet marketing related activities, because at the time we were still I’m going to kind of date myself here, but we were very much into the sort of CD ROM, DVD kiosk kind of development things. We were always in digital activities, but they were more physical activities versus today where everything was sort of online and cloud, those kinds of things. But the video game thing taught me something really interesting. And this is kind of where it ties into market research. I got really into game theory. So I wasn’t classically trained as a game producer at the time, I was like anybody was, but I understood how people interacted with the world because of my architecture days. And some of the things I learned about how people flow in and out of things, and more around people’s behavior is really what it came down to. And I was always really fascinated with that. In fact, they took that anthropology class just as a fun thing. I didn’t know what anthropology was to be honest. That’s how naive I was. And I absolutely loved it. I was like, “This is the coolest thing.” And if I were to do over, I think I probably would have done that. I just loved studying cultures and people and how they interacted with things. So I parlayed a lot of that into the video, game design side of things. And then as it sort of went through its transformation to a marketing agency and then eventually coming over to Delvinia, which we get a lot of in the early days really it was about customer experience design, digital strategy, those kinds of things when we first started, a lot of that kind of translated easily over to that. But the thing that I was struggling with was this idea of understanding game theory. And it’s interesting now when you look at a lot of the AI engines, and a lot of the simulations that are being built, like games are basically just giant simulators, right? That’s essentially what they are. And what’s interesting is when you think about a lot of what market research you’re trying to do, you’re trying to get a point in time, but you’re also trying to either simulate or predict where people are going to go. You’re trying to make some trend predictions on things. So there’s a lot of similarities between those or a lot of parallels between those areas.

[00:06:31]

Jamin Brazil: Z Johnson and I started reading a book on Game Theory, actually, I think we made it through two. Because I actually hadn’t been exposed to it until, gosh, the last five years. And never formally. It’s super insightful in terms of unlocking the application of market research. I mean, you understand it, but when you gamify what we do all of a sudden, it adds another layer of texture into the lens of the why and then the subsequent application of that of the insights.

[00:07:04]

Steve Mast: Yeah, one of the really interesting thing is when you’re architecting a game, I’m going to kind of date myself a little bit because a lot of the games I’ve worked on in time were referred to as turn based games, and I’m really going to date myself. There was games like Mist and things like that, and-

[00:07:21]

Jamin Brazil: I mean super popular still turn based games, yeah.

[00:07:25]

Steve Mast: Right. So those games are based around adventure. And so it really is about how you architect and how you lay out this path and think about how the user is ultimately going to flow within this. So a lot of that is you have to really do your homework on this stuff. It’s not something and you think about research that’s what you’re really doing, you’re doing a tremendous amount of understanding and studying behavior, consumer behavior but understanding behavior. And then you’re trying to lay out a plan or a strategy around how people are going to flow through that whether you’re selling something or whatever you might be doing service design or something like that. So the parallels are fascinating. They really are, I’m a huge fan of it. And now again with AI, we’ve actually invested in a company called Persona Panels. And their underlying technology is a company that basically worked in game development. And they used to do simulations for the Defense Department in terms of like hey, if we went into this community and wherever, and we were to do the following activities, I’m talking about the US government do the following activities, what would that look like? So they would simulate these things. So now we’ve taken that same technology in this company, and Persona Panels is using it to create essentially virtual people that react in the same way. So you can pump in all kinds of different scenarios like ideas or whatever into it. Maybe it’s new product ideas, new marketing ideas, and then it’ll simulate how people will react to it, which is fascinating.

[00:09:01]

Jamin Brazil: I actually think I’ve talked with them, it was a based out of Tel Aviv originally?

[00:09:06]

Steve Mast: No, the Persona Panels is out of New York actually.

[00:09:09]

Jamin Brazil: Okay. Then no, different-

[00:09:11]

Steve Mast: I would say Persona Panels is let’s call it the front end agency. So The people that run it are very much so market research folks. And then the technology used is a company called Tanjo. And the gentleman that runs Tanjo he’s the one who comes out of sort of this gaming background, but he’s done all kinds of various different artificial intelligence. It’s a whole subculture, the whole artificial intelligence, machine learning, there’s an entire group of people that kind of run with each other, and they’re super smart, super geeky people. You literally just they want to be locked in a dark room and fed pizza under the door because [CROSSTALK]. But that’s the group that is really from them, yeah. There is a group out of Tel Aviv, you’re right. There’s another one that is doing some really interesting stuff related to leveraging game theory as well.

[00:10:07]

Jamin Brazil: So March 2027, is today 2020. Crazy, right? Our world is just it’s different. And the topic that we’re going to be diving into now is making the transition because you guys have office space. What does it look like for you guys? I assume all your employees are now working from home.

[00:10:23]

Steve Mast: Yeah, we kind of decided to get ahead of the game. So on March 16th, we actually implemented our work from home strategy. And with a little bit we sensed it was coming and it was going to happen, but we really wanted to say you know what, and to be honest, you could feel it in the office. I remember on the Friday, you could sense people were getting nervous and concerned and it’s incredible how much the media has just ranted it up like crazy now in terms of how much information is out there. So people were concerned, you could feel it in the office. So we quickly over the weekend as the exec team started implementing and saying, “Okay, let’s put into play our work from home strategy and policies.” Went really smooth. Obviously there’s always a couple little hiccups here or there. Part of it is because most of our technology and most of the things that we implement are all in sort of cloud. They’re all digital based, so we’re pretty much we’re a virtual company anyway, we just happen to all be in one office. I will say the one thing that was super, super helpful in all this and if there’s any piece of advice that I can give to organizations out of this, especially any organizations that’s managing data and security is we went through the ISO 27001 certification about a year and a half ago, we started the process. It’s painful, especially if we consider ourselves a very agile, innovative company. But there’s a lot of challenging things you got to change, but it forces you to really get your business continuity plans in place. So the minute something happens and we were thinking more like data breaches and what if we have wars and you’re thinking about those traditional sort of things and pandemics weren’t necessarily one of the things. But all the same things come into play. A lot of it relies on what’s your IT infrastructure, how do they react, how do your employees maintain a level of security while they’re at home? What’s your VPN setup like? How fast can you implement it? Where is your data stored, etc., etc. So that was a tremendous help. We were almost able just to kind of– It was like a playbook. We just opened it up and everybody just followed the playbook.

[00:13:05]

Jamin Brazil: Yeah, that’s absolutely true and a really good point there. And also, it’s still a point of differentiation in the market. What is the biggest issue that your employees faced? Or employees in general face when making the transition to work from home?

[00:13:20]

Steve Mast: I’ve actually had this question three or four times this week, I think I mentioned to you I seem to be having these same conversations every day with people. But it really hasn’t been work related because what we were just previously talking about in the fact that a lot of our systems and processes were already there, and we could quickly sort of pivot and move into those things. The big things are personal things, which we were just talking about our kids, and just having safe spaces in your house where the kids are kind of in that corner and you’re in that corner and everybody kind of has their workspaces. And mental health, I think is a massive thing as we all know it’s been something that everybody there’s been a huge amount of awareness recently about it in the last few years about it. We have our own anxiety issues in our house. But just the general stress of being at home just the overall change and how to deal with that. Kids in general. I mean, you’ve got a Zoom call going on and you’ve got five or six or 10 people on a call. And you see two or three people, their kids are climbing all over them and it’s just the new norm, and you just have to be OK with that. So I think that’s been the big thing, it’s just really being able to deal with people’s personal issues and being very patient and understanding and having a tremendous amount of empathy in a very, very stressful time. That everybody is at a different point in time with this. So that’s probably been the big thing that we’ve been facing with employees. Oh, I will say too just as it popped in my head scheduling has been a really interesting thing. So maybe this is just me, I don’t know if you’re feeling the same way but maybe this is me but I’m very much so of something pops in my head and I barely sit in my office, I don’t even know why I really have an office, although don’t tell Adam I said that. I love to pop up at my office because something in my head, we have a very open format in the office space, and I’ve got my innovation crew, my design crew, my development crew close to me. And I’m able to sort of bounce out and say, “Hey, guys been thinking about this thing.” And then you flip open the whiteboard, and you draw it out and talk about it. Really hard to do that now. It’s hey, you send out a text, maybe a Slack request, set up a Zoom meeting, etc. You have to do all these different things now in order just to communicate, “I just have this simple idea, I just want to communicate what do you guys think?” And those ideas often are the things that become massive ideas. You need a thousand of those little ideas that become the Whopper. So I’d say we’re very much so into just operational mode, and we’re not trying to disrupt that. But my role as being sort of Chief Innovation Officer, I’d say has been probably the most challenging. Even the more I just think about as I’m talking to you, in terms of being able to sort of keep moving those ideas forward. Because right now, to be honest, nobody really wants to talk about new ideas. Everybody is just trying to find a new normal, so maybe the biggest employee issue is maybe it’s me, maybe that’s the biggest issue.

[00:16:43]

Jamin Brazil: So the point of disruption about kids climbing on other people and all that sort of thing. I feel like there is a lot more I get it, it’s okay, as opposed to before that would have been inappropriate. And so that’s positive. I would say that the sense of isolation is a big problem. Even for me and I have a full household, I’m getting a little bit like, gosh, it would be nice to go out with some friends and have a beer. And then I have one of my good friends and he and I work together Eric Santos, he’s a single guy. Well he has family locally, everybody’s isolated. And so he’s stuck in his apartment, and he’s working, but he can’t date. And so in that way, I think there’s a large portion of our population that is literally isolated by themselves and the difficulties that can be associated with that and then how you deal with it. What do you see as a key tool that you would recommend a company to use to help increase the overall connectivity across the organization?

[00:17:58]

Steve Mast: Yeah, before I get to that I just want to go back to what you were saying about– I agree with you that isolation thing. I have my grandmother who’s 102, so now she’s obviously in an old age home and we’re praying that that all sort of works out OK because obviously they’re very vulnerable. My parents are in their 80s even the two of them are I mean, they get along-ish at 80, they have to get along I guess, but just that isolation thing has been something that’s been really top of mind. And it’s interesting, one of the things my friends I was alluding to this story before with you that a group of my friends, we can get in, and we do this scotch night, and we used to do it sort of quarterly and that kind of went sort of twice a year. And everybody would go to each other’s house and someone would make steaks and you go to the next house and so we would do that sort of in a rotation. That group is actually doing Zoom meetings and it’s actually continues to grow. And essentially to say about that some of the folks that are on that scotch meeting, if you will, are alone and this is their outlet. And it’s really interesting those discussions, sometimes will go for– It’s kind of like just Zoom is running in the background or FaceTime is just running in the background. And they’re just happy to feel like they have some kind of human connection. So I think just on that isolation, I think it’s like if you know somebody, even if you don’t know them really well, I think one of the huge things right now is just reach out to them and say, “Hey, how are you doing?” It’s amazing how many people will just be like all over that. I think that’s a huge, huge thing. Sorry to answer your question. Sorry, the key tool. Yeah, we’re using all the normal stuff. Zoom, Slack, we’ve got chat rooms going all over the place. Methodify has been a really key tool I think even internally it’s been a great sort of mechanism for obviously, our clients are using it. But it’s been a really great mechanism because it is obviously in the cloud. So there’s lots of those kinds of things. Our VPN obviously has been really important. Anybody that’s running a small organization it’s really important you’ve got VPN set up ahead of time, to be able to manage work from home. I’d say less about a key tool, I’d say for us it’s been kind of more two things around how are we managing, or what key things are we doing to manage the organization and sort of the people in general. The two things or one is increased monitoring and regular communication. That’s a massive thing. We are obviously doing our virtual halls and we have a daily executive stand up which is interesting, because the exec would meet once a month, go over the numbers, do our thing like typical sort of organizations do. We’re doing it daily. I got to tell you there’s nothing like a crisis that really, really makes sure that you know what your key performance indicators are, and how to manage those things. Because what metrics matter, because that’s all you can focus on right now. So in our daily stand ups, we focus on those four or five key metrics, which is really the health of the organization, and then we’re discussing other things. And then Adam, our CEO, he sends out a companywide email, and he does it in a very light, fun way. So he sends that out to everybody, and gets great feedback about all the things we’re going on. We’re very transparent about everything from the number of reads coming in, the number of proposals being written, the health of the business. I don’t even know if we were that transparent before. Once a quarter we would do town hall meetings to let everybody know we do Monday morning meetings where everybody gets together. But this has just created tremendous amount of communication. And it’s very two way. There’s lots of feedback from the staff. So increase monitoring and regular communication. That’s one. The second one is how do you virtualize your culture? So this is something I think where you’re kind of tapping into you’re talking about when you’re working from home and all of a sudden now, culture is something that people sort of bumping into each other and hanging out and talking in the lunchroom and I believe sort of culture just kind of bubbles underneath, and I know a lot of people believe it’s sort of from the top down and it is. The tone is set for sure. But a lot of it is just how people work together. And we have a very, how do you say it? We have a very lighthearted. I think we’ve got a fun culture, maybe not everybody would agree with that. I think we do. We definitely have very creative things. We’re doing this rock paper scissors thing right now.

[00:23:09]

Jamin Brazil: Yeah, I’m scheduled to do that with the marketing director of Voxpopme on Monday. And I will then.

[00:23:16]

Steve Mast: Oh, Jen. Oh, amazing. Okay, awesome. So that’s been I think we’ve done two. Yeah, we’ve done two right now so far. We have another one today. So basically, it came out of Raj, who’s our chief revenue officer. He was like, “Oh, it’s too bad about the NCAA.” And he’s a big basketball fan, so is Adam. And so he came back with this idea of what if we create brackets, and what if we create a game and what not? And we really were going to do it internally, we were just going to do it for the staff. And then we were like, oh, let’s extend this out to everybody. Why not just make this a fun community thing? So it’s really important. That’s an example of our culture. We do these kind of impromptu things all the time. Adam sends out Friday memes, he started doing this a few months ago. And if you know Adam, which I think you do, he is quite the personality. And his memes are representative of his personality and they become sort of a little traditional. Now he’s sending them out almost daily. And it just keeps the tone of the organization in a light fun way. And people are commenting, I was having a really stressful day and then I got your meme, or I logged into the rock paper scissors session today and got a real chuckle out of– It’s things like that. So I think virtualizing your culture is something that’s quite challenging. And to keep that going is something that we’ve been keeping. So those are the things I would recommend, just increase your monitoring, make sure that communication is going and then make sure your culture you can maintain it during this time.

[00:24:55]

Jamin Brazil: Yeah, there’s two things that come to mind. One is the biggest problem that Organizations face a lot of times it’s they think it’s revenue. But I really believe it’s organizational clarity. And that is keeping the team in line with where the company is actually going. Oftentimes this team is operating six months or even farther behind where the CEO and his head is. The executive team is usually a few days behind that CEO brain. And just the virtualization that you’re describing all of a sudden, it requires this discipline around communication that we just don’t necessarily have to have when we’re around each other because we can leverage things like bio rhythms and whatever. You can see if Adam is upset, you don’t have that visibility anymore. And so now all of a sudden, the opportunity for the CEO to be able to and the rest of the team from quite literally the entire gamut to communicate is just like it’s leveraging tools like whether it’s– I mean, Slack is a really good one. One of the companies that I’m doing some consulting for, they have an emotions channel and they have for since their inception inside of Slack, and it’s 100% remote culture company, they use the emotions channel to communicate. I found it really interesting as an outsider and as a boomer as well, where you and I don’t necessarily sit down and talk about our feelings. Especially in a work context.

[00:26:32]

Steve Mast: I do.

[00:26:33]

Jamin Brazil: Well, yeah, I know you and I do really we do. Only I need some whiskey. But anyway, men don’t cry, Steve. But yeah, I mean, people will post in that, I’m feeling whatever happy or I’m feeling isolated or I’m feeling like I need to take a mental health couple of hours or whatever, and I’ve leveraged it. At first, it was really more of an experiment to see what kind of responses I would get. And I would get responses back, like, “Hey, let’s jump on a call right now I’d love to have some FaceTime with you and just kind of like talk about this or be a sounding board for you or whatever.” And so it’s created these opportunities for connectivity, which ironically, I think just didn’t exist as well prior to this crisis.

[00:27:29]

Steve Mast: Yeah, I actually think communications and this is going to sound really weird, but I actually think it’s gotten better. And again, it’s crisis focuses the mind like nothing else. And it focuses people and I know we’re focused on a specific problem that exists right now in the world, but everybody is having to operate around that thing. It’s almost like and I’ve said this in the past, and it’s a terrible thing to say, but wars often are a good thing. That sounds terrible for me to say that because there’s nothing– Wars are terrible, people die and they’re terrible.

[00:28:06]

Jamin Brazil: Sure I get.

[00:28:07]

Steve Mast: It focuses communities, it focuses people in ways that just doesn’t happen under normal circumstances. We get into long debates. If there’s anything that particularly when you look at the US and how divided US has been for quite some time and US is not alone. I mean, there’s lots of countries UK is another one that’s incredibly divided, even in Canada, where we find where we’re getting into very political discussions. But all that just goes out the window. It’s like we’re in this together, and the raw humanity of how do we connect and how do we– So I almost feel like communications and sort of conductivity of people have actually gotten better. Can I just say one thing about I think-

[00:28:48]

Jamin Brazil: Yeah, of course.

[00:28:48]

Steve Mast: I think you know Randy Matherson on my team?

[00:28:52]

Jamin Brazil: Yeah.

[00:28:53]

Steve Mast: Randy and I were riffing on some ideas and we’ve been working with the folks over at Realides[ph] on some different things as well. I know they’re kind of trying to figure this out as well. But I’m like it would be amazing if we’re on these Zoom calls, if we could have a little realize emotional meter beside the person. Where it’s actually in real time, it’s capturing the person’s emotion. And I could then because you’re right, I can’t really read someone’s emotion always even with their face. It’s the video, that screen still, still something is missing from that my eye doesn’t pick it up. But could technology help with that? So along with your Slack idea, I think that would be really cool.

[00:29:40]

Jamin Brazil: So let’s talk a little bit about the biggest surprise. So you’ve gone through this, is the big takeaway here that it’s surprising that we’ve been separated and yet our communication is somehow improving?

[00:29:52]

Steve Mast: Yeah. I’d say that’s been big. I’d say there’s probably a second one of that as well, where despite what I said earlier about it’s difficult to sort of kind of get out and maybe socialize little ideas that turn into big ideas, but I would say, at least it’s what we see with our team, and we’ve even seen this with clients as well. A lot of the client calls have been in this, creativity increases during these times as well. It’s interesting how fast people get resourceful when the scarcity of things and stuff. You can’t just go and it’s become such a habit. It’s like, “Oh, I need that.” You just go down to the local store or better yet just open up my phone, what am I saying? And I open up on Amazon, I get whatever that thing is. So now people have to get really resourceful in terms of how they solve problems. I’ve actually seen it increasing creative thinking, and even staff members who I would have never thought of bringing new ideas to the table around how we solve problems. They were like, “Hey, I was thinking about this thing, and this is what-” I’ve almost seen this creativity increase. And I think it’s because again, you’ve had to become more resourceful. It’s that scarcity thing increases creativity. So I think those are the two things I’d see.

[00:31:20]

Jamin Brazil: I love this point you’re making, and I had not actually thought about that. But when I was growing up, obviously pre-internet days, geez, I mean, even pre-dinosaurs. We didn’t have access to everything, and so you had to use creativity in order to figure things out. How do I change a tire? Which seems obviously stupid, but you get the point. We’ve moved into this society where I can do anything and get anything quite literally delivered. And in that framework, we’ve leveraged that and now all of a sudden, my dad who’s 82 and my wife. My dad calls my wife and says, “I can’t find any hand sanitizer on Amazon.” So she looks and sure enough, you can’t. There is some on there and it’s stupidly expensive and it has an obscene shipping fee. Which I think is how they’re getting around the price gouging. But whatever. So then they started doing research on how to make hand sanitizer. And they realize that one of the ingredients is now scarce because other people have been doing the same thing. And so then it’s about how do I make that ingredient? So we’re basically creating this chemistry experiment that the whole family is now involved with on creating hand sanitizer, which is this product that we feel like we need. So it’s to your point. Yeah, it’s definitely getting us as a society more active as opposed to the passive. I can get it quick.

[00:32:47]

Steve Mast: Yeah, and then you think of all the I mean, this is where technology and the internet does really amazing things where we can A, you were talking about sort of like it’s well, I can’t buy it on Amazon, so I’ve got to make it. Okay, what’s the key ingredient? Oh, that key ingredient can’t get that. How do I make that ingredient? But you get all that from this unbelievable information that we have access to. So you have this powerful and then we can then open up a video chat and very quick put a group of our family or friends or whatever together to experiment together on this stuff, and solve these problems. That’s what this purpose of all this stuff was meant to be. If there’s anything that I hope comes out of this is I know there’s been I know we’re off track a little bit but what I hope comes out of this is, all the things that the Facebook and the Googles and like the Fang, those organizations have been doing and really quite honestly been bad actors if you will, and I’ve been very outspoken about my thoughts around as a lot of people are. I use all these technologies, I believe in these technologies, I’m fascinated by them. I’m a champion of them. But I’m also a believer that we’ve just let them run wild. I think that we’re all going to come out way stronger out of this. But then what’s going to happen is everybody’s going to see the real good that can be done and everybody’s going to say, “That’s what they need to be focused on.” Not selling me more stuff, but focused on really helping humanity move forward. That’s probably I’m being very altruistic. But I do believe that there will be good that comes out of this for sure.

[00:34:41]

Jamin Brazil: Well, I think you’re right and I think one of the unlocks here and Zoom is certainly picked up on it is if you give then by give I mean in their case, they gave Zoom away to educational institutions. Then you wind up being able to take advantage of significant adoption of the tool set. And so then it’s a question of okay, well, what is the thing that the value that I can contribute to my constituents, my customers, or employees or society? And then not necessarily, obviously, I’m sure they have a long term strategy, but not necessarily thinking about, okay, how is this going to impact Q2 if I do this one thing? I was thinking about Airbnb right now, which is a severely impacted business. There’s so much demand on the support side, given all the disruption to people’s travels right now, that everybody is focusing on it doesn’t matter who you are. You’re focusing on helping out in support. And so I think our society has really entered into this really neat time where we are thinking about humanity as opposed to just me or just my quota or just my whatever kingdom. And with the understanding that if I can add value, then there’s the selfish side of it too. Don’t get me wrong, but then it’s just about helping the rising tide principle or just helping everybody up then knowing that-

[00:36:28]

Steve Mast: With everybody focused on a single mission, I mean, I’ve done this many times in presentation and it’s very old and cliché, but when John F. Kennedy rallied everybody to go to the moon, I mean-

[00:36:39]

Jamin Brazil: Right. That’s exactly right.

[00:36:42]

Steve Mast: An example of that, everybody gets keenly– And look at the it wasn’t even about getting to the moon. I know politically, that’s what they were but – it wasn’t even that. All the outcomes, all the new innovations, the progress that happened during that time really is what I think really set the foundation of the United States in being such a unbelievably powerful innovator, and so it’s getting everybody focused.

[00:37:11]

Jamin Brazil: Well, let’s switch gears. I’ve spent some time on Delvinia’s website, I was blown away and loved the history blog posts. So you’ve got this beautiful blog posts that I mean, your company is old, right? 21 years you’ve been there. And it does a really nice job of articulating the journey and the people that were playing in that. In that context, it’d be great if you could talk to us about a lesson learned having gone through a couple economic crisis as a business manager.

[00:37:50]

Steve Mast: Yeah, the key one is really it’s the adaptability. Every time we’ve gone through whether it was the.com bust, which was I don’t know 2001, 2002, or the financial downturn, which was ’08, ’09 both of those times, they forced us to adapt, and adapt our business model, adapt how we are operating. It forced us to adapt. You think of when you talk about that our journey really was, we started as a digital strategy, customer experience design firm, that’s where we got our roots. And we were building things for other people. And then we evolved out of that organization because of 2001, 2002 when the.com bust we had this kernel of this idea of like, hey, kind of cool if we could collect data, because we were doing all these strategies. We had to do research, but could we do it online? Why do we have to use all these traditionals or could we do it that’s where asking Canadians and asking Americans was born out of that. And we came out of it and said, “That’s a real opportunity. Let’s double down on that. Let’s grow that.” And then ’08, ’09 it was really about, “Hey, we need to create more efficiency within the organization. And how do we do that?” And I’m not saying Methodify was totally parallel with that. But a lot of what our clients were looking for was faster, easier, cheaper ways of doing things, which I think that’s what we’re facing right now in the MR spaces. Obviously, that’s been a key thing for a while now. But we were forced to adapt and change. And you really have to be able to be pretty nimble, and really be able to– I know everybody talks about pivoting. I don’t like that word. I’ve never really liked the idea of- I get that’s kind of what you’re doing. I think it’s more just how you evolve and how you’re prepared to evolve and how you’re open to evolving and how you surround yourself with people that have the same sort of thing. I was asked, I was on a panel. I’m the chair of a community marketing association. One of the things they asked me in one of our panel discussions was – this was middle of last year I guess it was. What is that key thing I look at when I’m hiring new folks? And I said adaptability. To me, it’s such a key thing. And I always ask people in interviews, that’s one of my key questions is, give me an example of how you’ve adapted something in your life? How you dealt with adversity, and those stories and those things of how they accomplish that and how they deal with that. That to me is you can do anything and you can accomplish anything. So I’d say adaptability is a big thing. I will say too Adam has a great little actually it’s our values. He has what he calls the five Ps and right now he’s using the five Ps constantly, which is passion, patience, perseverance, perspective and people. And coming out of ’08, ’09, clearly both of us were pretty beat up, and made it through it. And I remember him and I were chatting one day and he said to me, “How do I get this stuff out of my head?” And I said, “Dude, just go and sit down over the weekend and just write it down. Just bard all over your email or a piece of paper or whatever, just get it out.” And what came out of that was the sort of like these were the things were his core values, and I’d say that perseverance thing was huge. And he just simply puts it, lead together as a team through the good and bad times. And we just keep it really simple. We’re not trying to be goofy with our values, but that’s been huge to help us through those times. And I know that sounds so cliché, of course, you’ve got to persevere. But it’s funny how many people really don’t persevere. It’s really, really interesting. You look at organizations that survive, they generally have really strong leaders that can persevere through those really tough times.

[00:42:19]

Jamin Brazil: There’s a famous venture capitalist who once said, “There are no failed companies, there are only failed teams.” And I think back on any success I ever had, and it was a function of basically just showing up the next day. And even as you said, when it’s really hard you just keep plotting. There’s not like this big master. I mean, there might be a few companies like maybe Jeff Bezos or whatever. But I think generally speaking, it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and continuing the journey. And sometimes the journey is too hard. And you need to stop because you just do and that’s okay. But to your point, the companies that actually make it are the ones that somehow have the magic and continue to persevere.

[00:43:12]

Steve Mast: You said something there. And again, it’s inside of our value statement around lead together as a team good and bad. And that team thing is so important, because and that team could be a team of two. But you’re never going to be 100% every day. But it’s amazing when you have we have a really, I think we have a great executive team right now. And at any point in time, none of the five of us are on the same page or feel 100% every day. But we’re willing to call each other out when we’re not on the same page. And the other thing is we’re willing to pick each other up. And I think that is so important in any organization, big teams, small teams, anything, if you’re a manager, look around your team. Are you really persevering through whatever you’re doing? And are you reading together as a team? I think that is so key to success.

[00:44:12]

Jamin Brazil: Methodify fits as a what I consider to be this new tech, and what I mean by that is you’ve seen it probably in the last five years but really in the last two years it’s just been this base have been growing by gangbusters and that is, you productize methodologies instead of creating the erector set or you’ve got all the pieces you need in order to do your project. Now you’ve got a system that is functionally pre-built to accomplish what it is that you want to do as a researcher. Why did you guys decide to make that bet?

[00:44:49]

Steve Mast: Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s kind of in two parts. I think a lot of this conversation is in two parts. One was sort of an aha moment. And then the other one is, there’s been a bit of a tipping point. And I think we’re in the middle of a tipping point. Although I think we’re in maybe a bit of a pause right now due to what’s going on. But the aha moment was, we were working with one of our large brand clients, big bank. And we were running sort of just kind of traditional data collection projects, working with the research agency, and their internal research organization. And what we sort of picked up on was, they were the same kinds of things. They were doing at the time, I think it might have been concept tests or something like that. Anyway, it was relatively the same thing. And they were trying to create some kind of consistency and benchmarking and stuff. And then because we had built digital tools very quickly and things we were able to create a little simple interface and allow them to sort of have this interface like a login and use it and start– And it was a very rudimentary version of Methodify and we actually called it Methodify at the time. But it was a very rudimentary version of it. And Zappy was probably a year, maybe two years in the marketplace at the time. So there wasn’t a lot of organizations out there like us. But it was still in I’ll call it sort of proof of concept stage. But the aha moment for me was I was sitting in a meeting, and the Chief Marketing Officer turned to his team, we were sitting with all the different marketers, the heads of research, it was a very large group of people and they were basically talking about the results of the Methodify research that was done. The CMO turned to the group and said, “I want everything to be Methodify. I want to Methodify-” Used it in a verb context, so that’s why we use Methodify it all the time. He actually said, “Make sure you Methodify it.” And that was the only thing he really said in the meeting. To be honest, he wasn’t even really that interested in the data, that’s what we’re there for. What he was interested in is how fast we were able to turn this stuff over. And it really was because these were standardized and productized. So for us, that was a bit of the aha moment that we’re all like this for sure is something. And obviously, one CMO saying that is not everybody saying it. But what ended up happening was our sales teams were out there talking to people and socializing with people, and they were hearing the same feedback. That was a big thing. So that was kind of the aha moment. That was to your point, it was like five years ago. And then we started really doubling down and investing on standardizing this. And I will say, the whole thing is a function of change management and transformation, which I know is way overused words right now, but it really is about that. Organizations that depending on where they are in the curve of their digital transformation cycle. Some might be really far ahead and really willing to adapt, and this particular bank was actually quite far in that overall arc. Other organizations we’re working with they’re not as far along and they have a hard time adapting standardized methodologies. Everything is custom. They just can’t get their head around the fact that you can standardize. The tipping point is a really interesting one. I said, the tipping point we’re sort of in the middle of it right now. When we first came out with Methodify, I actually got up in front of the Research Association in Canada at their annual conference and presented a little case study and talked about Methodify, and it was in a little side room, but it was packed, it was jam packed. And I sheepishly got up there and because I’m not a researcher by trade, I always feel a little, maybe not quite as smart as the group of people that I’m around all the time. But I presented, “Hey, this is what we’re doing. And this is what it’s about.” And one of the things I said at the end of the presentation, I said, “This idea of standardization and productizing methodologies really will take hold when it’s not you, meaning you, the researchers running the projects. It’s the marketers, it’s the product folks, it’s the innovation teams that are running their own research projects that you’ve set up. So you guys are facilitating, you’re no longer the gatekeeper, you’re the facilitator.” And that concept behind it, I kind of felt at the time that if they actually had tomatoes, I probably would have got thrown a bunch of tomatoes at me.

[00:49:47]

Jamin Brazil: Right, I mean it’s such a power play.

[00:49:50]

Steve Mast: Oh, totally. It totally was and I got it, and I could feel it, and I could sense it. But that tipping point is happening now. We have one of our clients just trained 75 of their marketing team and their product teams on Methodify across both Canada and the US. And all the methodologies they were put in place and they were vetted by the research department, set up properly. And they’re still doing a lot of the custom work. But to allow it to really, truly where there’s more consumer insight across all the marketing programs, it really needed to get outside of that group. So that tipping point is happening now where it’s not just locked in the research department, it’s actually getting out to the other groups inside of an organization.

[00:50:40]

Jamin Brazil: Just to put it in full context, I had a conversation with 10 heads of insights, not on the podcast. None of them actually have ever been on the podcast, but on this subject of enabling automate or basically democratizing access to consumer insights.

[00:50:57]

Steve Mast: Yeah, that’s what it is.

[00:50:58]

Jamin Brazil: Across the board, I think there was one. So nine out of 10. Nine out of 10 were terrified of this concept because their concern was that the user wouldn’t be educated on the backside to make the right conclusion. But the real point is they’re doing it anyway. And whether they’re using Survey Monkey or whatever platform. And so you’ve got to be able to get in front of that, you’ve got to be in the driver’s seat so you can put the best practices around the application of the insights and understanding of the insights. And so I really believe that the training, so how to use the tools is really important. I think there’s going to be a big surge and big opportunity in our space, too, if we take it to move it into enablers through knowledge sharing. Whether that’s more educational certifications, that sort of stuff.

[00:52:01]

Steve Mast: Yeah, it’s interesting we actually have started working on it’s funny you say the certification because we purchased a qualitative chat bot called Chris last year. And it was integrated inside of Methodify before. And we’re slowly now rolling it out as either a standalone tool, standalone platform, it has its own brand. But it’s really sort of helping automate more of the qualitative side of things. I actually see there’s really this blending between quant and qual. And I think, you probably agree, there’s really the distinction between the two is getting kind of blurry. So we’ve been working a lot in terms of implementing that inside of organizations, it’s funny how people have embraced that in some cases than even standardizing. And I’m like, “You know this is like a virtual interviewer. This is literally doing your job. You know that, right?” And it’s funny, they embrace it a little bit more. But I think because the back end still needs a lot of interpretation of it, but also make no mistake, this is not about every aspect of research. This is not high end problem solving. This is literally giving, if you think of the marketing process and you think of the five or six different gates that a marketing like typical, take a TV ad or whatever the different stages, this is literally just allowing along those stages through that creation process a very quick thumbs up thumbs down, give you a little insight is blue good? Is it red? That’s what it is. It’s creating this and I get agile is so overused, but it’s allowing people to really truly be agile in connecting with their customers while they’re developing new products, new marketing materials. It’s not trying to solve the big, big, crazy questions that a lot of sort of traditional research firms they do. So to me, it’s more adding to the market. It’s not necessarily taking away from the market. It all depends on your perspective.

[00:54:12]

Jamin Brazil: Last question, what is your personal motto?

[00:54:16]

Steve Mast: That’s an easy one, I’ve lived by this for years. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. And I think in these times, I think what you do is more important than what you say. Even though we just spent the last hour having a great conversation, but I do think what matters at the end of the day is what you do.

[00:54:35]

Jamin Brazil: My guest today has been Steve Mast, President and Chief Innovation Officer at Delvinia. Steve, thank you very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today.

[00:54:44]

Steve Mast: Thanks, Jamin.

[00:54:46]

Jamin Brazil: Everyone else, thank you so much for your time. I found a lot of value, I learned some stuff. If you did, please take time, share this on social, LinkedIn, Twitter, if you tag me, I will send you a T-shirt, I promise. Have a great rest of your day.

Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Henrik Mattsson, CEO of Lookback, on how to Transition Work from the Office to Home

My guest today is Henrik Mattsson, CEO of Lookback. 

Founded in 2013, Lookback is a video capture and sharing application used by User Experience professionals to conduct both moderated and unmoderated user research projects that is used by over 1,600 companies globally. 

Prior to joining Lookback, Henrik was the co-founder of Authentique Partners, an entrepreneurial advisory boutique. 

Find Henrik Online

Twitter: www.twitter.com/IamHenrikM 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/henrik-mattsson 

Website: lookback.io 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil  

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp  

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch  

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp  

Website: www.happymr.com  

Music:

“Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com 

This Episode’s Sponsor: 

This episode is brought to you by SurveyMonkey. Almost everyone has taken its surveys, but did you know that SurveyMonkey offers complete solutions for market researchers? In addition to flexible surveys, their global Audience panel, and research services, SurveyMonkey just launched a fast and easy way to collect market feedback, with 7 new Expert Solutions for concept and creative testing. With built-in, customizable methodology, AI-Powered Insights, and industry benchmarking, you can get feedback on your ideas from your target market–in a presentation-ready format, by the way–in as little as an hour. 

For more information on SurveyMonkey Market Research Solutions, visit surveymonkey.com/market-research. Mention the Happy Market Research Podcast to the SurveyMonkey sales team before June 30th, for a discount off of your first project.


[00:00:03]

Jamin: Hi, I’m Jamin, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. This is a special edition of the Happy Market Research Podcast, aiming to help companies cope during this tumultuous time. My guest today is Henrik Mattsson, CEO of Lookback, founded in 2013. Lookback is a video-capture and sharing application used by user experience professionals to conduct both moderated and unmoderated user research projects that is used by over 1,600 companies globally. Prior to joining Lookback, Henrik was the cofounder of Authentic Partners, an entrepreneurial advisory board. Henrik, thank you so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.

[00:00:43]

Henrik: Thanks for having me, Jamin.

[00:00:44]

Jamin: Let’s start out with a personal note. How are you and your family during this time of COVID-19?

[00:00:52]

Henrik: We’re doing fine, thank you. They closed the schools here in Montreal where I’m based, so the kids are very excited about that right now. But I’m sure as time goes on here, we’re going to have to come up with some things to do to keep them busy.

[00:01:09]

Jamin: There’s a whole parenting thing here happening. So I have a 12, 15, and 18-year-old, all of which are in school. Now their schools are postponed. Right now it’s one week, but potentially it could be through the balance of the year. It’s interesting to me because they’re home right now alone, which I don’t like very much. And I haven’t figured out what the trigger’s going to be for us to be able to, “Now you’re going to come in with Dad to work, or there’s going to be jobs for you,” or whatever is going to happen. I don’t know. Do you have any parenting tips?

[00:01:41]

Henrik: Not yet. I think that’s for a later episode. Just roll with it and try to be helpful. I think in times like these, you have to just calm down, be helpful, and roll with it. So that’s what I plan to do. We’ll see how it goes.

[00:01:55]

Jamin: Perfect. Well, I’ll certainly apply that advice for this week. We’ll see what next week looks like. I feel like they’re going to be professional Snapchatters by the end of the week, but anyway. So Lookback is entirely remote. You’ve got employees literally around the globe. I don’t think you have a centralized office where people gather every day. Tell us a little bit about some of the biggest issues that employees face when joining or participating in a work-from-home or remote-work environment.

[00:02:24]

Henrik: Sure. So I think there’s probably four main things. I know there’s supposed to be three things always, but I think there’s four at least. Number one is that social gets filtered out very easily in remote work. And what I mean by that is that if you go into an office, you’re always going to have those in-between spaces where you just catch up with your colleagues or talk about the game or something like that. In remote, you would just jump from browser to browser, from meeting to meeting, and it’s very easy to filter out social. So that can be quite challenging for people. Number two is that you can’t bump into things, unexpected things as easily. And if you co-work together in an office, you will bump into the unexpected. Now, that’s not necessarily going to happen by itself if you go remote. So you need to make space for that. Third, the measures that you put in place to make space for that can create overwhelming situations. So you will end up bumping into everything. So you got to find that balance. Either your organization hasn’t set this up very well and you won’t bump into anything unexpected, or they sail the other way around and you’re going to bump into everything and just start muting everything because it’s too much to handle. And the fourth one that I would bring up is that it can be hard to collaborate without the whiteboard. If you’re used to that, you need to find other tools. Luckily there are a lot of other tools to deal with it, but you have to find them and you have to set them up, so on.

[00:04:03]

Jamin: It was Steve Jobs when – I don’t know if you’ve read the book Creativity, Inc.

[00:04:07]

Henrik: Not yet.

[00:04:08]

Jamin: It’s great book. It’s the story of Pixar and Steve Jobs’ injection into that and subsequent success of that company. Of course, Pixar brought us – for me, all my children’s go-to movies way back with Finding Nemo to whatever’s being released nowadays. So in the office design that he created, it was specifically – and it’s funny. He made the bathrooms and kitchen areas difficult to get to or not convenient. And his reasoning was – and I liked how you framed it – it created opportunities for people to connect that otherwise would not connect. So what are some solutions wrapped up in these four issues?

[00:04:57]

Henrik: So I think if we take them and turn them, the social part getting filtered out, I think that has to be addressed on multiple levels. Because especially if you’re going to do this in the long-term, this will really drain you and it will be hard to onboard as a new employee with people that you’ve never met. Then you don’t really know them. So number one is every employee has to do their part. Make space for the social in your meetings. Perhaps hang out a little bit after a meeting instead of jumping straight into the other one. Plan some one-on-ones with your colleagues. And also the leadership of the company has to make sure that there’s proper investment into these things so that you have – I’ve seen some people now do a five-to-seven or whatever you call it in the US, but one of those after-work things where you just go for drinks together. You can do that over webcam too, right? And see each other, have retreats, meet up every now and then. At Lookback we do this three times per year. That’s been tremendously valuable. So that’s on the social part. On the bumping into things either too much or too little, I think there are two things you need to do there. I always say transparency by default. So a lot of companies now were a bit worried about what information to share with whom. I think in a remote organization, you need to be transparent by default, because people can’t bump into you but they can bump into information. So just put everything out there. Obviously there might be some HR issues or something like that that you can’t share widely, but really push yourself there and try to be as transparent as possible. At the same time, you need to be disciplined and use the right channel or tool for the right thing. So if you have for example Slack as your main communication tool as we do, understand that that’s just like the office space. That’s just people calling for each other through doors or across the room or something like that. It’s not where things live forever. And if you just start shouting everywhere, it’s going to be quite hard to do this, so stay disciplined on that. And then finally on the last one with the collaboration piece, that’s a tool issue, I would say. You can use tools to make sure that you have a whiteboard, a virtual whiteboard, or all those design tools or code reviews or whatever it is. Make sure that you have that set up properly. Don’t under-invest in tools.

[00:07:21]

Jamin: So you spent a fair amount of time in your early career in management consulting probably – I liken the whiteboard in management consulting to the six-shooter in a Western movie. It is the tool that you use to create your battle strategy, and some people even use it on a weekly basis to cross things out in their to-dos or what have you. It is really powerful. What are some tools that you would recommend people use in order to address some of the – well, to address the four big issues that you’ve outlined?

[00:07:58]

Henrik: So if we start the other way around now with the whiteboarding, I’d say that for me it’s the tool called Whimsical has been a game-changer actually. I’m very impressed with this tool. It’s very simple to use. You can make flowcharts. You can make mind maps. And I use it for myself just to – a lot of my work is just breaking problems into their component parts. So you can make all of these flowcharts and issue trees and what have you. And it’s also collaborative, so you can just share this and you can work together in it. And so that’s very powerful for making sure that you get your team aligned on, “What are we actually talking about? Are we over here in the issue tree or are we over here?” So yes, Whimsical, very good. Then in terms of the day-to-day communication and keeping that discipline, we use three tools. So we use Slack for just everyday chatter where you just communicate with people, and we have a lot of different channels. Most of them are open and transparent, and you can join if you want to but you don’t have to. And so we have a code channel where the developers discuss code. We have a customer success channel where support can reach out to different aspects of the organization to deal with issues, and so on and so forth. And then we have for more wiki-like things, things like notes from meetings and also agendas. Agendas, obviously always an important thing, but perhaps even more important than remote. We keep all of that in a tool called Notion, a really good tool. It’s hard to explain in voice, but once you start using it, you’ll see it’s just a living document. Anyone can just change anything. It can keep all your things that need to be accessible async in there. Slack won’t be good for that and it’s not built for that either. Things will just disappear into yesterday and so on and so forth. But with Notion, you can keep all your things there. And then finally we use a tool called Clubhouse that we use for project work. So when we implement code projects or something like that, we track that on stories that have different states. And I’d say you go a pretty long way on that as a company. I guess Airtable also deserves a mention here, which is where we collect data in tables to discuss. For example, our long list, which is all our feature requests and product ideas and stuff like that. Basically what all of these have in common is that they are purpose-built for a very specific purpose, and they’re very good at that thing. And they are good for collaboration and notifications and async work. So you’d get a long way on those, I’d say.

[00:10:36]

Jamin: So there’s a lot of different tools. How do you keep track of those tools as a practitioner, as a user?

[00:10:44]

Henrik: So there’s a lot of trial-and-error over time. I think the only of these that persisted throughout the lifetime of Lookback is Slack. That’s the only one we haven’t changed, but the other ones we changed. So you can’t be afraid of innovating here. As soon as – this is your office now. This is your infrastructure. And if you’re having issues or if you can’t get people on board with it or if it’s not working well, you can’t be afraid of trying a new tool and shift things. We’ve been successful with that. Once you have that though, you have to police. You have to have very clear processes of how this should be used. And you shouldn’t be afraid to help new employees out in terms of “this thing doesn’t go here, this thing goes somewhere else.” So it’s a culture thing, but it’s really just understanding that this is your new backbone now. And I think that might be challenging for companies that come – that either don’t go full-in remote or where one part of the company is more of a non-remote culture, and they don’t understand that this is not your key infrastructure. That can be challenging. But for us, we’ve always been remote-only, and that’s been really helpful. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but those are some of the important things to think about.

[00:11:58]

Jamin: So prior to joining Lookback, you were not a remote-only culture. You’ve been in more of a traditional sort of on-site or HQ-based company. Is that correct?

[00:12:10]

Henrik: Yes. So I’ve been on-site also in management consulting. You parachute into Teams and you go to their offices. It’s been two years actually commuting between Montreal and Stockholm and working for a big company based in Stockholm where all the company was basically non-remote. And we had a few people like myself who would work remotely, and that didn’t work at all. I can say that.

[00:12:36]

Jamin: The hybrid sort of because – well, so that’s one – actually, let’s explore that issue. Then I’m going to get to actually my intended question. One of the dysfunctions I have personally experienced is my last company, I didn’t have a remote culture. We had offices. And then as we started scaling our sales force, we realized that we had to have employees that were based out of regional areas that we just frankly couldn’t support an office around, didn’t need to support an office around. It was like any operational headcount or any more than one person that was going to be in that area. So probably the first year, I failed miserably at bringing those people on and retaining any level of employee engagement. And the reason why is they were – using your words, which I really, really like, there was no opportunity for them to bump into. There was no in-between spaces. So it was meeting and then gone. And there was just a massive amount of cultural void that that person was plummeted into. And probably the biggest realization of that for me was at the company Christmas party, because they would come to the Christmas party, but they’re more like the person in the corner on their phone as opposed to connected with the humans. And it’s just such a big issue there. When you think about companies that are rolling out right now this new infrastructure of “you’re going to be remote for the next month and maybe longer,” which is basically every big company, what would your counsel be? Put on your management consulting hat here. What would your counsel be to the management team about things that they should be paying attention to?

[00:14:11]

Henrik: The key is to avoid – I guess the expression is “second-class citizens.” You say that in the US, right? People that are –

[00:14:18]

Jamin: Absolutely, yes.

[00:14:19]

Henrik: So that’s what happens with people where you have some people who are perhaps meeting in real life, in an office day-to-day. And then you have some people that are outside of that. And that creates these second-class citizens that won’t engage and that won’t have the same information and opportunity to collaborate. And that’s not a good situation for anyone. It’s not good for the company because you’re just wasting these resources, and it’s not good for these employees because they’re not going to have fun and they’re not going to have success. They’re going to move on. So even if it’s only temporary, I would say go all-in on this and understand that either you are remote or you are not. And now we are in a remote situation, and I don’t care if you and your friend and someone else took a lunch meeting. You need to document that in the remote tools so that that doesn’t become privileged information if people need that information for their collaboration. So it’s for everyone to step up and be remote, and realize that even if my situation may not be as remote as my colleagues’ situation, but we’re all equally remote and we need to go all-in on that. It can’t be an issue of “it works for me, so I’m just going to do it this way.” It has to be all-in. So that would be my number-one advice for sure.

[00:15:35]

Jamin: I love that. And you think about the training that’s happened to us as a society using social media. So things as silly as taking a picture of a meal, posting it on Insta. And then of course Twitter, which is my sort of – I love Twitter. Very native in that environment more than any other platform. But it’s a great way to be able to just communicate thoughts and feelings and activities that are happening. So it’s really about in a lot of ways, just about taking that discipline that you would normally do on a personal level, and then just applying that to your eight-to-five. So my real question was moving into a remote-only culture, what actually surprised you about that transition?

[00:16:16]

Henrik: That’s a really good question. I think the fact that it’s harder – I don’t want to scare people now, but it’s harder than you think, than I expected it to be. I thought this would be a small adjustment, but what’s happening really is that we’re creating completely new forms of work and interaction. And even now I learn – we’re at what, year four, year five of this now for me? And I’m still learning new things, and I have to course-correct on how we build a remote culture. And this is really uncharted territory for most companies. We haven’t been doing this for a long time, especially not on a company-wide basis. There’s always been people working from home, but that’s not the same as being a remote company completely. So I think just expect to be surprised, is the lesson learned here. And roll with it, and it’s just like anything. Don’t be afraid to keep innovating. It’s never done. And keep your ears to the ground and try to stay ahead of the curve.

[00:17:24]

Jamin: My guest today is Henrik Mattsson, CEO of Lookback. Thank you, Henrik, so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.

[00:17:31]

Henrik: Thank you so much, Jamin. Always a pleasure.

[00:17:34]

Jamin: Everyone else, I hope safety for you and your family. I hope this is an opportunity for thriving. I know there’s a lot of economic uncertainty right now, and that will continue. Having lived through two other bubbles, first in 2001 and then later 2008 and ’09, I can tell you that it will end and everything will be OK. I know it’s a platitude, but it is the truth. I hope you have a wonderful, safe rest of your day.

Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 304 – How to Transition Work from the Office to Home

In this episode, we’ll be providing tips on how to make the switch from working at an office to working from home easier. Stay tuned for the following weeks to hear the individual episodes of our referenced guests. 

Referenced Guests:

Rian van der Merwe, Wildbit’s Head of Product

Cait Wilson, Research Manager at YouGov

Henrik Mattsson, CEO of Lookback

Steve Mast, President & Chief Innovation Officer at Delvinia

Find Jamin Online:

Find Chueyee Online:

Find Us Online: 

Music: 

This Episode’s Sponsor: 

This episode is brought to you by SurveyMonkey. Almost everyone has taken its surveys, but did you know that SurveyMonkey offers complete solutions for market researchers? In addition to flexible surveys, their global Audience panel, and research services, SurveyMonkey just launched a fast and easy way to collect market feedback, with 7 new Expert Solutions for concept and creative testing. With built-in, customizable methodology, AI-Powered Insights, and industry benchmarking, you can get feedback on your ideas from your target market–in a presentation-ready format, by the way–in as little as an hour. 

For more information on SurveyMonkey Market Research Solutions, visit surveymonkey.com/market-research. Mention the Happy Market Research Podcast to the SurveyMonkey sales team before June 30th, for a discount off of your first project.


[00:00:03] Jamin: Thanks for tuning in! You’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast, I’m Jamin Brazil, the show’s host. I’m joined by our Executive Producer, Chueyee Yang. Chueyee, how are you? 

[00:00:12] Chueyee: I’m doing pretty okay considering what’s been going on in the world. I actually worked outside for a little bit in my backyard and it was honestly the best decision I’ve made all week it was so refreshing. In this episode, we’ll be providing tips on how to make the switch from working at an office to working from home easier. Stay tuned for the following weeks to hear the individual episodes of our referenced guests. A quick warning, there are curse words that are un-beeped on this episode. You can find a beeped version of this episode on our website. 

[00:00:52] Jamin: Support for Happy Market Research comes from SurveyMonkey. Almost everyone has taken its surveys, but did you know that SurveyMonkey offers complete solutions for market researchers? In addition to flexible surveys, their global Audience panel, and research services, SurveyMonkey just launched a fast and easy way to collect market feedback, with 7 new Expert Solutions for concept and creative testing. With built-in, customizable methodology, AI-Powered Insights, and industry benchmarking, you can get feedback on your ideas from your target market–in a presentation-ready format, by the way–in as little as an hour. For more information on SurveyMonkey Market Research Solutions, visit surveymonkey.com/market-research, that’s surveymonkey dot com slash market dash research. Mention the Happy Market Research Podcast to the SurveyMonkey sales team before June 30th, for a discount off of your first project.

For all of us, it’s not a theoretical thing. It’s here, a true pandemic. And we all are having to deal with this fact. At this time, companies are, for the first time, requiring employees to work from home. Not coffee shops, not co-working spaces, but from home. But that isn’t as simple as unplugging your laptop at work and setting it up on your kitchen counter. In fact, before the COVID19 crisis, only 16% of companies had a fully remote workforce. One of my favorite quotes from my time in Y-Comminator is, “A company can only be good a three things. If you choose to have a remote culture, then that’ll be one of your three things.” We are all trying to do the right thing here but most of us just don’t know what that is- like Cait, who works at YouGov, a multinational market research company with six offices in the US alone and they have offices in over 10 other countries. There were twelve of us on a Zoom enabled Virtual Lunch talking about how things were different when Cait pops in and says, 

[00:03:15] Cait: So me and my husband, we live in a one-bedroom apartment in the Bay Area so one of our immediate problems was figuring out where to have our conference calls. You both have a lot of different phone calls and video conferences are constantly negotiating with each other who would get the living room to do are called ultimately came up with this solution to sign out the rooms of our apartment when we had a call so just like you would at any office so if you need the living room for a call you would go over and you would sign it out it’s pretty I’ve been working pretty well for us and we’ve been making it work in our one bedroom.  

[00:03:56] Chueyee: Among other things, this is a time that we are all tested. And, we either rise to the occasion, or we don’t, or we can’t. Companies that are being hit hard by COVID-19 are cutting jobs and spend across the board. In recent conversations, it is apparent that large ticket items, like trackers, will continue to be under pressure. But, the group in consumer insights that got hit the hardest are facilities. There are more than 1,600 facilities globally. Over the past 10 years, these facilities have been under increasing pressure to adjust their traditional focus group and in person interviews with digitally enabled remote sessions. 

[00:04:40] Jamin: In fact, ESOMAR’s 2019 report showed the majority of spend in Qualitative Research was still being done in person. Now, in person has been forced into a wholesale transition to digital. What will the long term impacts be? Before COVID-19, it used to be the case that if you joined a video chat, like Zoom, you’d have about half of the participants not share their camera. Today, everyone enables their camera. This will create an overall comfort and connection with video that simply didn’t exist even two weeks ago. The trend here is that the highlight reel will become a normal part of any consumer insight report. While that might not seem odd to you User Experience Researchers, for us Market Researchers, this is a major paradigm shift. Over the coming months, my hope is that you’ll keep your relationships alive with your trusted facilities as they quickly adapting to this new world. 

[00:05:33] Chueyee: Some companies with physical offices found the transition to be relatively smooth. Steve Mast, from Delvinia said,

[00:05:44] Steve Mast: So people were concerned, you could feel it in the office. So we quickly  over the weekend as the exec team started implementing and saying, “Okay, let’s put into play our work from home strategy and policies.” Went really smooth. Obviously there’s always a couple little hiccups here or there. Part of it is because most of our technology and most of the things that we implement are all in sort of cloud. They’re all digital based, so we’re pretty much we’re a virtual company anyway, we just happen to all be in one office. I will say the one thing that was super, super helpful in all this and if there’s any piece of advice that I can give to organizations out of this, especially any organizations that’s managing data and security is we went through the ISO 27001 certification about a year and a half ago, we started the process. It’s painful, especially if we consider ourselves a very agile, innovative company. But there’s a lot of challenging things you got to change, but it forces you to really get your business continuity plans in place. So the minute something happens and we were thinking more like data breaches and what if we have wars and you’re thinking about those traditional sort of things and pandemics weren’t necessarily one of the things. But all the same things come into play. A lot of it relies on what’s your IT infrastructure, how do they react, how do your employees maintain a level of security while they’re at home? What’s your VPN setup like? How fast can you implement it? Where is your data stored, etc., etc. So that was a tremendous help. We were almost able just to kind of– It was like a playbook. We just opened it up and everybody just followed the playbook.

[00:07:46] Jamin: I was recently interviewed by Merril DuBrow of MARC Research on his Podcast titled On the Mark. He asked me, “What will be the difference between the CEOs and companies that thrive during and after this crisis?” My response was exactly inline with how Delvinia handled things. The ones that thrive will be the ones that have built the reputation and systems before this hit. The ones that die will be the ones that didn’t have the customer relationships and internal clout to carry them through this period. It is a hard fact that Darwin identified, “It isn’t the strongest or most intelligent that survive. But the most adaptable.” Laura Bright, founder of Bright Consulting, recently told a group of us that one of her clients had a part manufacturing business. Now, noone wants parts so they make hand sanitizer and are running at full utilization. Although it is hard at a company level, it is just as hard at an individual level. Rian van der Merwe, Head of Product at Wildbit shared that although there are downsides, there are upsides as well.

[00:08:56] Rian: Right. Yes, “trade-off” is the right word because I think in that trade-off you don’t need facilities management, you save other things. We’re a company of 30 people now. I’ve haven’t been there for 12 years, but I’ve been remote for 12 years and we have someone on staff whose title is Team Happiness and Operations and that’s what you’re talking about, right? But we don’t need a facilities manager or someone that figures out how to expand office space. And I think you’re right in that there’s a lot more companies talking about that. Base Camp obviously talks about it a lot, but then there’s Buffer and there’s Zapier, all these companies that are remote only, that are doing this more and more. And we’re seeing that, like you said, a lot of people prefer that. I don’t know how I would ever go back to not working remotely. It’s not for everyone, but I think that the way that it’s structured and the way that it allows me and the way I work to have uninterrupted hours of deep work and communicate asynchronously to my team has been invaluable for the way that I work. 

[00:10:04] Jamin: It’ll be interesting to see how companies think about remote employees once this pandemic is behind us. Henrik Mattsson, CEO of Lookback, a video based UX platform, has been running a fully remote culture for years. He identified four key issues people face when not working in an office. Full disclosure, Lookback was Happy Market Research’s sponsor for the first quarter of this year. 

[00:10:31] Henrik: Sure. So I think there’s probably four main things. I know there’s supposed to be three things always, but I think there’s four at least. Number one is that social gets filtered out very easily in remote work. And what I mean by that is that if you go into an office, you’re always going to have those in-between spaces where you just catch up with your colleagues or talk about the game or something like that. In remote, you would just jump from browser to browser, from meeting to meeting, and it’s very easy to filter out social. So that can be quite challenging for people. Number two is that you can’t bump into things, unexpected things as easily. And if you co-work together in an office, you will bump into the unexpected. Now, that’s not necessarily going to happen by itself if you go remote. So you need to make space for that. 

[00:11:26] Chueyee: Okay, we need to pause here. This has been my biggest problem since we have gone remote. Every morning, Jamin would ask me, “What’s the word on the street?” For us, that meant, “What is going on in your world…and my world is K-pop. As soon as we turn remote, there just wasn’t a spot for that interaction unless someone was really late for a Zoom meeting.

[00:11:52] Jamin: Yeah. I missed that too. Thankfully, we had this conversation pretty quick with Henrik and were able to put the appropriate measure in place. But, there is a dark side to this….

[00:12:07] Henrik: Third, the measures that you put in place to make space for that can create overwhelming situations. So you will end up bumping into everything. So you got to find that balance. Either your organization hasn’t set this up very well and you won’t bump into anything unexpected, or they sail the other way around and you’re going to bump into everything and just start muting everything because it’s too much to handle. And the fourth one that I would bring up is that it can be hard to collaborate without the whiteboard. If you’re used to that, you need to find other tools. Luckily there are a lot of other tools to deal with it, but you have to find them and you have to set them up, so on.

[00:12:49] Jamin: From here, we could go a lot of different ways. But, I want to continue the interview with Henrik regarding solutions. It is helpful to understand what the employee owns and the employer owns for a successful transition from in office to home office.

[00:13:08] Henrik: So I think if we take them and turn them, the social part getting filtered out, I think that has to be addressed on multiple levels. Because especially if you’re going to do this in the long-term, this will really drain you and it will be hard to onboard as a new employee with people that you’ve never met. Then you don’t really know them. So number one is every employee has to do their part. Make space for the social in your meetings. Perhaps hang out a little bit after a meeting instead of jumping straight into the other one. Plan some one-on-ones with your colleagues. And also the leadership of the company has to make sure that there’s proper investment into these things so that you have – I’ve seen some people now do a five-to-seven or whatever you call it in the US, but one of those after-work things where you just go for drinks together. You can do that over webcam too, right? And see each other, have retreats, meet up every now and then. At Lookback we do this three times per year. That’s been tremendously valuable. So that’s on the social part. On the bumping into things either too much or too little, I think there are two things you need to do there. I always say transparency by default. So a lot of companies now were a bit worried about what information to share with whom. I think in a remote organization, you need to be transparent by default, because people can’t bump into you but they can bump into information. So just put everything out there. Obviously there might be some HR issues or something like that that you can’t share widely, but really push yourself there and try to be as transparent as possible. At the same time, you need to be disciplined and use the right channel or tool for the right thing. So if you have for example Slack as your main communication tool as we do, understand that that’s just like the office space. That’s just people calling for each other through doors or across the room or something like that. It’s not where things live forever. And if you just start shouting everywhere, it’s going to be quite hard to do this, so stay disciplined on that. And then finally on the last one with the collaboration piece, that’s a tool issue, I would say. You can use tools to make sure that you have a whiteboard, a virtual whiteboard, or all those design tools or code reviews or whatever it is. Make sure that you have that set up properly. Don’t under-invest in tools.

[00:15:34] Jamin: In regards to tools, Like many of you, my team’s biggest challenge has been around collaboration. We used to do this on glass, tables, post it notes, whiteboards…basically anything physical. 

[00:15:51] Henrik: So if we start the other way around now with the whiteboarding, I’d say that for me it’s the tool called Whimsical has been a game-changer actually. I’m very impressed with this tool. It’s very simple to use. You can make flowcharts. You can make mind maps. And I use it for myself just to – a lot of my work is just breaking problems into their component parts. So you can make all of these flowcharts and issue trees and what have you. And it’s also collaborative, so you can just share this and you can work together in it. And so that’s very powerful for making sure that you get your team aligned on, “What are we actually talking about? Are we over here in the issue tree or are we over here?” So yes, Whimsical, very good. Then in terms of the day-to-day communication and keeping that discipline, we use three tools. So we use Slack for just everyday chatter where you just communicate with people, and we have a lot of different channels. Most of them are open and transparent, and you can join if you want to but you don’t have to. And so we have a code channel where the developers discuss code. We have a customer success channel where support can reach out to different aspects of the organization to deal with issues, and so on and so forth. And then we have for more wiki-like things, things like notes from meetings and also agendas. Agendas, obviously always an important thing, but perhaps even more important than remote. We keep all of that in a tool called Notion, a really good tool. It’s hard to explain in voice, but once you start using it, you’ll see it’s just a living document. Anyone can just change anything. It can keep all your things that need to be accessible async in there. Slack won’t be good for that and it’s not built for that either. Things will just disappear into yesterday and so on and so forth. But with Notion, you can keep all your things there. And then finally we use a tool called Clubhouse that we use for project work. So when we implement code projects or something like that, we track that on stories that have different states. And I’d say you go a pretty long way on that as a company. I guess Airtable also deserves a mention here, which is where we collect data in tables to discuss. For example, our long list, which is all our feature requests and product ideas and stuff like that. Basically what all of these have in common is that they are purpose-built for a very specific purpose, and they’re very good at that thing. And they are good for collaboration and notifications and async work. So you’d get a long way on those, I’d say.

[00:18:29] Chueyee: While Slack was the most commonly mentioned tool across all the discussions we’ve had regarding internal communications, Rian had a totally different take on how it should be used…

[00:18:43] Rian: I’m not going to say Slack. We’re actually very, very anti-Slack. We have very strict rules around Slack. A lot of remote companies would say when you’re working, you’re in Slack. We don’t have that rule. We don’t make any decisions in Slack. You’re not required to come back after you were away and read through a thread and understand what just happened. We try to use Slack for troubleshooting and real-time issues on the site or making some announcements, but no real-time work actually happens there. Our work happens in Dropbox Paper, which is like a Google Docs competitor, but it just feels less permanent. And then we use Basecamp for a more permanent communication. And then this is going to sound weird, but we like email. We like email better than Slack. Before we send someone a direct message in Slack, we would say, “Well, do I need to interrupt them right now or can this be an email that they get back to?” In fact, one of the people that work with us, Derek, built a Slack app called PigeonBot that you can download that let you email someone from within Slack. So instead of sending them a DM, you would type “/email” and it would send them an email instead of interrupting them at that particular time. 

[00:19:51] Jamin: Something that people are not talking much about right now is their actual physical space. I’m talking about where they do their work. 

[00:20:02] Rian: And the important thing, I think, is that you have a space. Whenever we hire someone, we ask them where are you going to work? They were like “Coffee shops or a couch.” They’re like, “No, you need to have a space. We’re going to give you the furniture. You can’t just work wherever.” Like this is my office and I can close the door and I can work here. The sign on the door that says, “Dad is on a call” isn’t always as effective as I want it to be, but, for the most part, it works OK. And so you have that. And the other thing I will say is I think why a lot of people are scared of this is that they try to recreate an office experience in a remote environment. So there’s a lot of synchronous work and that’s where it would infringe with family time, especially if you’re across time zones. Whereas for us, we have very few meetings during the week and we optimize for asynchronous communication. So we post something in paper, in Dropbox paper, and we say, “Let me know what you’re thinking within the next two days.” And then when someone else is, needs a break from coding and they want to do something else for an hour, they come out of that and this is a good break for them to then give feedback on that thing. And once you look at it that way: You’re not recreating an office environment; you’re actually optimizing for what remote work is good for. Like, let’s say you record a podcast, you don’t need to edit it with someone in person. They can work on it when they are ready. You can give feedback that way. So I would encourage it, I would say. 

[00:21:37] Jamin: It seems like it comes down to style and culture. You need to understand that tools will not solve any problem. You need to be clear on why you are choosing a tool, what is the expected outcome, how, why and when people will use it. And, treat it like an experiment. Be willing to pivot if the tool isn’t working or having a negative impact. 

[00:22:01] Chueyee: At the center of all this transformation, sit communication. Steve made two observations about how Delvinia is adapting their comms strategy to increase transparency across the organization. 

[00:22:19] Steve: I’d say less about a key tool, I’d say for us it’s been kind of more two things around how are we managing, or what key things are we doing to manage the organization and sort of the people in general. The two things or one is increased monitoring and regular communication. That’s a massive thing. We are obviously doing our virtual halls and we have a daily executive stand up which is interesting, because the exec would meet once a month, go over the numbers, do our thing like typical sort of organizations do. We’re doing it daily. I got to tell you there’s nothing like a crisis that really, really makes sure that you know what your key performance indicators are, and how to manage those things. Because what metrics matter, because that’s all you can focus on right now. So in our daily stand ups, we focus on those four or five key metrics, which is really the health of the organization, and then we’re discussing other things. And then Adam, our CEO, he sends out a company wide email, and he does it in a very light, fun way. So he sends that out to everybody, and gets great feedback about all the things we’re going on. We’re very transparent about everything from the number of reads coming in, the number of proposals being written, the health of the business. I don’t even know if we were that transparent before. Once a quarter we would do town hall meetings to let everybody know we do Monday morning meetings where everybody gets together. But this has just created tremendous amount of communication. And it’s very two way. There’s lots of feedback from the staff. So increase monitoring and regular communication. That’s one. The second one is how do you virtualize your culture? So this is something I think where you’re kind of tapping into you’re talking about when you’re working from home and all of a sudden now, culture is something that people sort of bumping into each other and hanging out and talking in the lunchroom and I believe sort of culture just kind of bubbles underneath, and I know a lot of people believe it’s sort of from the top down and it is. The tone is set for sure. But a lot of it is just how people work together. And we have a very, how do you say it? We have a very lighthearted. I think we’ve got a fun culture, maybe not everybody would agree with that. I think we do. We definitely have very creative things. We’re doing this rock paper scissors thing right now.

[00:24:58] Jamin: Wherever you find yourself today. Our true hope for you is safety, health, and financial security. I know many of my friends have had to make hard decisions regarding company headcount. Still more of my friends find themselves impacted by these same decisions. We are a small community of people that have been though a lot and have a passion … even a moral imperative … to discover the voice of the consumer and translate that in such a way that companies can hear it and act. This is an emotional time for us all. Take the time to connect with your friends and be sure to virtually bump into someone everyday. 

[00:25:37] Chueyee: I totally agree with you about that. Make sure you step outside even if it’s your backyard to get a little bit of sunlight because that little bit of sunlight helps you especially if you’ve been working at home all week. In the next episode, we’re releasing the long-form interview with Henrik Mattsson, CEO of Lookback.

[00:22:55] Henrik: The key is to avoid – I guess the expression is “second-class citizens.” So that’s what happens with people where you have some people who are perhaps meeting in real life, in an office day-to-day. And then you have some people that are outside of that. And that creates these second-class citizens that won’t engage and that won’t have the same information and opportunity to collaborate. And that’s not a good situation for anyone. It’s not good for the company because you’re just wasting these resources, and it’s not good for these employees because they’re not going to have fun and they’re not going to have success

[00:26:32] Chueyee: Happy Market Research is hosted and produced by me, Chueyee Yang and Jamin Brazil. 

[00:26:37] Jamin: Special thanks to our referenced guests, Rian van der Merwe, Wildbit’s Head of Product; Cait Wilson, Research Manager at YouGov; Henrik Mattsson, CEO of Lookback; and Steve Mast, President & Chief Innovation Officer at Delvinia.

To subscribe to the podcast, go to iTunes or check out the Happy Market Research website at happyMR.com. You can follow us on Twitter at @happyMRxP. Thank you for listening and see you next week.

Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 303 – Ted Pulsifer – Trends in MRx: Augmented Reality, Agile Research, and Changes to Survey Designs

This episode was recorded in December 2019.


My guest today is Ted Pulsifer, CRO at Market Cube.

Established in 2008, Market Cube in an Online Sample, Survey, and Research Company based in Mount Pleasant South Carolina.

Prior to joining Market Cube, Ted has served in leadership roles at Dynata and Lucid. Additionally, he has invested in a craft brew firm and is a purveyor of fine art. 

Find Ted Online:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tedpulsifer/

Website: https://market-cube.com/ 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil  

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp  

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch  

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp  

Website: www.happymr.com  

Music:

“Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com

This Episode’s Sponsor: 

This episode is brought to you by SurveyMonkey. Almost everyone has taken its surveys, but did you know that SurveyMonkey offers complete solutions for market researchers? In addition to flexible surveys, their global Audience panel, and research services, SurveyMonkey just launched a fast and easy way to collect market feedback, with 7 new Expert Solutions for concept and creative testing. With built-in, customizable methodology, AI-Powered Insights, and industry benchmarking, you can get feedback on your ideas from your target market–in a presentation-ready format, by the way–in as little as an hour. 

For more information on SurveyMonkey Market Research Solutions, visit surveymonkey.com/market-research. Mention the Happy Market Research Podcast to the SurveyMonkey sales team before June 30th, for a discount off of your first project.


[00:00:03]

Jamin Brazil: Hi, I’m Jamin and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. My guest today is Ted Pulsifer, CRO at Market Cube. Established in 2008, Market Cube is an online sample survey and research company based in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Prior to joining Market Cube, Ted has served in leadership roles at both Dynata and Lucid. Additionally, he has invested in a Craft Brew firm and is a purveyor of fine art. Ted, thanks for joining me on Happy Market Research podcast today.

[00:00:34]

Ted Pulsifer: Yeah, thanks for having me.

[00:00:36]

Jamin Brazil: So, fine art, how did you get into that?

[00:00:40]

Ted Pulsifer: That’s a funny story. So, sometimes it helps that who you know is better than what you know. I have a good friend of mine from college that was doing some art collecting as part of his estate process and he asked me to be on the board of a company that dealt specifically in buying and collecting and storing art based on some different taxation situations with art, so I got a crash course. And I try to say yes to most exciting opportunities that take me out of my comfort zone and that was certainly one of them, so.

[00:01:08]

Jamin Brazil: I bet. What was the one thing you learned going through that process?

[00:01:13]

Ted Pulsifer: Just how unbelievably extensive valuations can be for art and how it has such an unbelievable emotional impact on people where they’ll see something and say, “OK, that Kandinsky, that’s unbelievable, that’s worth $300,000 in my mind or a million dollars. And that’s totally clear.” And other people will see things and find no value to it and think it’s a joke. And so just obviously this subjective art side of valuing the paintings and sculptures is one thing. But what I thought was so interesting was just kind of the emotional side of the viewer or the observer and how that runs the gamut so dramatically unlike anything else really. I mean even if – Before that I spent some time in fine wine and even people that don’t necessarily love wine, I mean you could pour them a $200 bottle next to a bottle of something that costs four dollars from Yellow Tail and they can certainly taste the difference in finish, in texture, in complexity and alcohol burn. So, like most things, the novice can at least appreciate the differences and art was something that I got to see that everybody runs the spectrum on, so that part about it made it pretty exciting.

[00:02:19]

Jamin Brazil: That’s funny. Was loss aversion a big part of the valuation?

[00:02:24]

Ted Pulsifer: Not as much. What was so interesting was just sort of the financing and the shipping and I think it’s like a lot of things. Until you have somebody that you know that works in an industry, you don’t really realize all the components of it. So for example, just all the factors of storage, shipping, insurance, those cottage industries on top of cottage industries, that exist that when you kind of take time to stop and think out of your mind makes sense, but in a knee jerk reaction, you ever sit next to somebody interesting on a plane you think, “Oh I had no idea that that exists.” So, that was the biggest part of it was just realizing how many sub-industries support that. But yeah, it was fun.

[00:03:03]

Jamin Brazil: Great. Well, let’s get started with our opening question. Tell us a little bit about your –

[00:03:07]

Ted Pulsifer: Sure.

[00:03:07]

Jamin Brazil: Parents, and how did they inform your current career?

[00:03:12]

Ted Pulsifer: Absolutely. So, I grew up in southern Maine, so I’m a New England transplant. In fact, living here in Charleston I’m what’s called a damn Yankee. So, a Yankee is somebody that visits the south and then goes home, spends their tourist dollars, has a vacation, and goes home. And a damn Yankee is somebody that marries a southern person and stays, so that’s – My first introduction is I’m a damn Yankee now by trade, by title. Which, I guess I’m proud to have. So yeah, I grew up in southern Maine. And really, both my parents had careers and passions in construction and art and things that are not necessarily my immediate skill set, but gave me great appreciation for where I am today. So, my dad owned a wooden ship building business and built wooden boats by hand. So, growing up I spent a lot of time around tools, in the woods, certainly lots of times, very passionate about time on the water, being in the ocean, but also just doing lots with wood. We literally heated our house off of firewood, so regular chores for me, stacking wood, that sort of thing. And I don’t know, I guess that sort of helped my career in that not necessarily do people wake up and say, “I can’t wait to spend two hours stacking wood today.” But it’s also a very healthy process because I found that in most jobs, especially in sales, there’s that two or three or four hours a day of stacking wood, whatever that may be in your vertical that you just have to do, that if you learn to not necessarily enjoy but appreciate it, do it faster and better, things like that have helped me a lot.

[00:04:40]

Jamin Brazil: I have an entrepreneur friend, he started a pest control business and it’s done really, really well, like stupidly well. And I asked him one time, I said, “How are you winning when all these other companies, a lot of them even bigger, are struggling?” And he said, “I just do the shit that nobody else wants to do.”

[00:04:57]

Ted Pulsifer: Right. Right.

[00:04:58]

Jamin Brazil: That’s exactly the court, given this also a shout out to my friend, Ron Francella [ph]. I talked to him before – He was in the market research industry actually, had a successful sales career and he said his minimum number of cold calls was I believe it was 50 a day. That’s hard to deal with that kind of rejection.

[00:05:18]

Ted Pulsifer: It’s hard and it’s – It also takes a really high amount of self-discipline, so I just have a special place in my heart for people that have jobs that will not do themselves when you’re gone. So for example, and I’ll put myself in that bucket now, I can have business travel or vacation and put an out of office on and largely things will get done and processed without me being there. However, if you are building a boat or you are doing pest control or doing services or something that you have to be there. It takes on this whole different importance, and so things like making that number of cold calls, taking on the work that people don’t want to do, it’s pretty valiant, but it requires a high amount of self-discipline to do that.

[00:05:58]

Jamin Brazil: It totally does. And an interesting point that you’re making because I heard a keynote by a president of a famous college and so in the keynote he said that you will probably never hear me, obviously not see me again in your lives at his – This was a graduation talk and – But it just goes to show you how truly important my role is in context of the people that serve you lunch, which if they weren’t here just one day then you would know they were gone immediately. And so I thought it was kind of interesting how he kind of like changed the value prop of kind of the roles and the people that keep things moving on a day to day basis for an organization versus kind of the executive. Obviously you need both, I’m not saying you don’t, but it was – I thought that was kind of a nice humble perspective from his part. So, let’s shift gears.

[00:06:50]

Ted Pulsifer: Sure.

[00:06:50]

Jamin Brazil: What is the role of insights in a modern brand and how has that changed in the last five years?

[00:06:56]

Ted Pulsifer: I love this question and I’d largely love to see some of our corporate clients, kind of how they answer this, but in just some of the conversations that I have with them – I think for years people have heard that budgets are tight and there’s fewer folks on an insight staff to do work that maybe four to five years ago there might have been a large staff where – One of the things that we’ve seen is that some of our corporate clients and even agency clients that used to do a lot of things themselves, have started to outsource more and more of that to trusted partners. So, I think on the one hand it’s great for companies like Market Cube because we will instead of just saying hey here’s a sample, for a thousand completes we’ll actually be able to help them create the questionnaire, program it, do tabs, and do just kind of a larger part of the research, which makes you – Obviously it kind of typically leads to a larger sale, but more importantly you’re more of an integrated partner. And so it’s interesting, like our largest clients I’d say are more kind of partners where I feel like when I call them we’re back and forth on how we’re going to design a questionnaire, how we’re going to go about slicing the data, how we’re going to look at sample sizing, and really from a quantitative side. So, I think while they have smaller teams, they’re pushing more and more out to partners and they’re able to spend more and more time on the insights. And so that’s I think one of the really interesting things I’d say. For us I’ve seen that really from 2018 on. Some of our most sophisticated clients are able to pass stuff off. And that’s a difficult thing to do because if you spend your career in the insights and your career working in brands, it’s really hard to let go of some of those pieces and processes. But I find that as more and more folks are forced to do that, they actually free up time and they can take those findings outside of the boardroom and deal with more stakeholders within their organization. So, certainly – I think I mentioned this on the panel that we did together in San Francisco, we don’t have clients that are coming to us saying we’re going to be doing less research or less demand. They might have budgets that are tighter on the brand side, but they’re actually the volume of work that they’re requesting seems to be doubling or tripling on the regular. So, I think that part’s really, really exciting.

[00:09:05]

Jamin Brazil: So, when you think about the increase in spend or rather work velocity, research velocity, maybe not absolute spend, where is the growth coming from and are you seeing a shift in spend from one area to another area?

[00:09:22]

Ted Pulsifer: Yeah. So, full disclosure, my answer’s probably more limited to the quantitative side. I really can’t speak too much about changes in qual and other aspects, but I think overall in the last five to six years there’s just been a much larger comfort with the word survey, where it used to seem like it was this process and only certain people did it. Now as a consumer, I can’t walk off my flight or check out of my hotel or leave the car dealership or anything without getting three or four survey requests on my experience and everything and even – A great experience is I stayed at a hotel with my wife for our anniversary a couple years ago and we had one teeny tiny issue with I don’t know, room service being late or something and the head of room service called me back and invited me back to the hotel and dinner on us. And of course, I’ll never forget that, that was incredible. And so even though that’s kind of primary research and research of the customer, I think that, making the whole population more comfortable with surveys helps market research have a broader base of survey respondents. And so I think just kind of a general comfort level and a broader acceptance of surveys, from the quantitative side I feel like that’s driving adoption, whereas years ago potential business unit leaders and agencies would say OK, we’ll survey these people, we’ll ask them this and that’s it. Now it’s just there’s such a proliferation of surveys being done that it seems to be a more accepted topic.

[00:10:49]

Jamin Brazil: It really is the hay day of surveys, isn’t it?

[00:10:52]

Ted Pulsifer: For sure.

[00:10:53]

Jamin Brazil: It’s crazy. I just got my windows tinted on my – With this little like corner – You know what I mean, it’s on this like not great area and I got a survey. I got a survey request, basic MPS type survey request out of their CRM. So, it’s just connected to their POS, I can’t remember what it was, but it was a – It just really struck me as amazing that – You think about relatively unsophisticated SMBs that are now employing surveys and presumably using that data in some way to help create better experiences for customers.

[00:11:24]

Ted Pulsifer: I do think with the proliferation of social media and apps and just so much more communication available to consumers now, certainly that’s not new, but if you look in aggregate, there’s certainly way more things to do on your phone now than there was 15 years ago. And I know that’s a large period of time, but the fact is that technology, not just in market research, but technology in the cellular networks, in telephones, on apps, on smartphones, has really made this easier to do. And so for example, like 15 years ago a window tinting company would have a hell of a time doing a survey or you would get a cold call from somebody and probably hang-up or be too busy. Now, I think that just technology begets technology and it’s been a rising tide I think for all things survey and all things data collection.

[00:12:12]

Jamin Brazil: So, the way that we get people to take surveys is interesting, right? You have like direct email, such as my window tinting example or my Amazon purchase or what have you. And then you have sometimes intercepts that you’ll see online.

[00:12:25]

Ted Pulsifer: Sure.

[00:12:26]

Jamin Brazil: The other way is text messages.

[00:12:29]

Ted Pulsifer: Right.

[00:12:29]

Jamin Brazil: So, do you think there’s going to be a growth in that methodology or that approach to getting people to provide feedback?

[00:12:34]

Ted Pulsifer: Yeah, I do. But, I kind of will pause with that and say that – So, I think one of the advantages is it’s simple and it’s short but it is very difficult to have a conversational deep dive into understanding things in a deep meaningful way by text message. So, where I see it’s doing the most impact is we have a huge office in Delhi, India, we do a bulk of our operations work out of there and our panel and our sample delivery in India is one of the fastest growing parts of our business. And part of that is because just from a cellular infrastructure, that more and more parts of rural India, rural Asia, rural Africa, are coming online and cell phone research is booming in those areas. So, while those are emerging economies, it’s very important to get insights from that group, is that’s really going to be the future of the global economy over the next 10 to 15 years. In my opinion of course. But obviously it’s undeniable when you look at the population. I think that that will change. I guess the thing that I wrestle with is you might be able to figure out how is your window tinting experience or did you like the movie, would you come back? But those are really short tiny bits of information that are not necessarily life changing to researchers. So, I still see that obviously we’d like surveys to be shorter and all that, but we see kind of the average survey that we’re doing closer to that ten minute mark versus the two minute mark. And so in that process you’re asking a lot of information and you have so many cool things in survey platforms as far as grids and pictures and videos. So, if you just move to a text based system, I fear that you’re leaving a lot of that valuable data on the sideline. But certainly there’s others that specialize in that mobile arena that are more qualified to answer than I am.

[00:14:19]

Jamin Brazil: So your interesting point that SMS has a spot, it’s very much like the right tool for the right job.

[00:14:25]

Ted Pulsifer: Right.

[00:14:26]

Jamin Brazil: So, given your point of view with respect to the evolution of surveys, I mean you guys have been in the industry a long time, and really since start hitting scale in 2008, so mobile adoption, et cetera. Have you seen any trends at a macro level on survey design? You mentioned an average survey looking something like ten minutes. Is that less, more?

[00:14:51]

Ted Pulsifer: It’s a good question. I think from a survey design standpoint, the short answer for me is just better and better and better. So, we do a lot of work with FocusVision, and we do a lot of work with a lot of different programming tools for example. But that’s just one that we – A lot of our customers use that we spend a lot of time in. And every quarter, every month, we’re seeing more and more features that, frankly, they don’t seem like a big deal now, but five years ago it was a really difficult thing to do. With respect to survey design, the more we can embed and do rich media where appropriate, the better it is. So, I guess this doesn’t answer your question directly, but we have a few clients that tend to do a lot of work where the survey is in terms of run time are long, but they have some really interesting video applications that go on in them and the drop rate is very, very low. And so what we get from that is that – And this is our respondent base, I can’t speak for the global sample pool, but our respondents are saying that they don’t mind that it’s long as long as what they’re doing is interesting and they love watching rich media they love it when it feels more interactive and it’s fun. So, that’s a little of a different slice than say pure gamification. But I’m finding that the more the surveys can be designed to be interactive and have a media component, the better that it is for our respondents. I think that in and of itself doesn’t necessarily shorten it but a lot of components of survey design where you can ask a question and do some visual mapping and stuff. If that shortens it 20, 30 seconds versus grids, eliminating grids or minimizing the use of grids, all those sort of best practices, we’ve seen help a lot.

[00:16:25]

Jamin Brazil: Grids are the devil. Sorry researchers. It’s always a bad outcome when you guys see it. And for me personally taking a survey, if I see the wall of grid I’m kind of like fenced out, don’t care anymore.

[00:16:38]

Ted Pulsifer: Well, let me counter with maybe they’re not the devil, but more than one or two can be very devilish.

[00:16:45]

Jamin Brazil: That’s fair. That’s fair. Gosh, I literally was just taking a survey this morning and there was I don’t even know how many answer choices on this grid, at least – I had to scroll and I was on my phone of course, and it was a ten point scale, 11 point scale. I’m kind of going through it and I’m reading the answer choices of course because I’m trying to answer the survey, I actually care about the brand that’s asking me information. And I’m like what are you tactically going to do this different based on this answer choice. I’m sure the researchers had thought about that, but anyway, I always kind of try and get it down to what at the end of the day, the data needs to be driving some sort of actual business outcome.

[00:17:28]

Ted Pulsifer: Absolutely.

[00:17:29]

Jamin Brazil: Market research has gone through a lot of transitions. Your example of our time spent on mobile over the 15 years, it’s literally even affecting our bone structure, right? I’m sure you saw that report about a couple months ago where Generation Z is developing these bone spurs or horns in the back of their neck because they’re staring down more than everything else. Are you – And I know that your business is focused in online survey data collection quant. Are you seeing things or hearing things around VR, AR, or maybe even more right now natural language processing? Part of the power of online surveys is that you can – You do gather vast amount of open ended data.

[00:18:20]

Ted Pulsifer: Right.

[00:18:21]

Jamin Brazil: Is that something that is increasing or gaining attention among your customers?

[00:18:27]

Ted Pulsifer: Yeah, so I think with our customers, largely that’s a what’s new, let me take note, and so I feel like conferences are a phenomenal way for our customers to go out there and see sort of what is new that may pertain to their business and really help them change the way they’re doing things. We don’t typically have a large role in that part of the data collection cycle. Although I will say this, I don’t go to every single one, but I do attend probably five to seven conferences a year globally, maybe more. And I’ve gone to a lot of them for six, seven, eight years in a row now and one of the things that I notice anecdotally at TMRE and certainly at the last Quirks event I was at was just a number of new software VR data processing booths and companies that I frankly don’t recognize that are newer and I think wow, what are these guys doing? So, I’d say that’s definitely new, but let me back up to the mobile point. And I’d say one of the things that I’ve seen is that from some reports I’ve read, from looking and trying to understand the 5G market is that we are just at the beginning. Even though it seems like wow, mobile is different and there’s apps and all this stuff. Well, if you go back and you kind of examine the history of the network and how the fourth generation of mobile, and mobile power technology allowed cell phone users to have enough data where you could actually do web based activities on a phone and then apps came to be and now we’re in the staring at 5G that’s going to be rolling out soon, and once the 5G network is out then the devices need to catch up. But as they do and you start to have really tight speed outside in the city not being on a WiFi network, really mobile and able devices. I think it hasn’t even started yet. So you could picture things like holograms on phones, VR taking off. So maybe the way that-and that’s one of those things that’s kind of scary, but also pretty exciting is in not too distant of a future, three to four years out, 2023, 2025-I don’t know exactly, but you’re gonna start to see your cell phone doing even more things than it is now in a very scalable way, in a way that we haven’t even scratched the surface of. And that’s what’s really exciting is to figure out not just in a daily life as a consumer or as a retailer, but from the market research standpoint, what applications can come from that? So I’ll flip it back to you and pretend I’m the host for a second. How do you think that would impact that qualitative environment alone?

[00:20:54]

Jamin Brazil: I would not spend money on a booth if I had a VR or AR market research or consumer insights or UX, whatever, centric product. I feel like the time is just not right now. It’s too, too early. Or where I think there’s a lot of waste in the market research space is in the open ends. So when you look-especially in contexts of surveys. So I’m talking quant here, not qual. Qual does a good job of kind of understanding that that’s important and we process it. But because you don’t have the larger insights or the total number of people taking the surveys to be reflective of the population, then it’s sort of discounted. It’s not quantifiable. What’s interesting about online surveys is they really could operate as a surrogate conversation at scale and I think that opportunity is-I’m still not really seeing anybody capitalize on. Sure, there are companies that are-I know there are companies that are doing it, but I haven’t seen people put a flag in the ground as this sort of added-value piece into their platform or their service. Again, centric to online surveys. And a lot of-I’ve been doing this obviously for a while, so back in the day, you would take a subset of the total number of open ends for each question and then you would code those and that would be your answers. But now with natural language processing and sentiment analysis, you actually have an opportunity to get a lot more information. Now it also starts begetting the question of how good are the open ends. So now all of the sudden you start thinking a lot more about the quality of the respondents, which I think then leads to the next trend that I think we’re gonna see and I’m seeing now, which is more of a blended methodology for recruiting. So using existing managed communities slash maybe some of the networks out there and then supplementing that sample with other-whether it’s user lists, customer lists, or social recruiting just as sort of this added kind of baseline of nonprofessional respondents. So I think there’s a lot of value that exists that-opportunity to capitalize on inside of the surveys that are beyond just the ratings questions or what have you, the Likert scales. And I think whoever winds up cracking that nut in a material way so it becomes easy to use, then-let me actually just give you a little bit more context. So if you’re a researcher and you’re presenting your results to your customer, what if-as you’re going through that process, what if you gave everybody a five-broke them up into teams of two or individually, and gave them five open ends that they would then code? The open ends create this really unique connection to the ones and zeros inside of the quantified question format. So I think there’s this engagement opportunity that exists is one thing and I think the other thing that’s really interesting is that sort of humanization or deeper insight that can be-or getting into the why more. Which again, starts sort of feeding the overall questionnaire design and sample frame.

[00:24:07]

Ted Pulsifer: Well, it’s interesting. So as I hear you say that, I’m thinking in the back of my mind that we’ve used as an industry-and I guess I’m qual for sure, but I can speak a little more intelligently to quant. We’ve used a lot of different technological innovations to make the job of sampling easier. So we need less humans to launch emails, to monitor email open rates and a lot of those things are automated now, obviously, and that’s great. But the one thing that seems pretty constant to me in this market research space is definitely a blend of art and science and that there’s always gonna be the need for these very, very smart market researchers to use these tools and interpret what they mean. I’ve yet to see one device that I think will eliminate the market researcher that can do all this data collection and then deliver all the insights and say what it means. There’s-there just seems like there’s gonna be this ongoing need for the human connection and the human interpretation and the skilled-basically the skilled hands of market researchers to interpret this and make these suggestions and these decisions. I think that’s what makes it a pretty exciting time, not just for the survey space, but also for market researchers in general that are considering entering the field.

[00:25:15]

Jamin Brazil: Oh god, I totally agree. The less that we can focus on the operational considerations, then the more time that we have to spend on the analytics and implementation of the research. So proportionally, I’ve not seen the statistic and I probably never will, but it would be fascinating if you could give me a pie chart and you could show me how much time is spent at-I’ll pick on the agency. Let’s say Ipsos. How much time is spent at Ipsos on a project for the different pieces of it? I’m hypothesizing, but the majority of the time is usually in the operational consideration of the research, not in the engagement of the insights in the organization. And so that’s the-to your point, none of that is automatable. There’s-you just have to be creative with what those kinds of workshops or what have you look like, so you can empower the insight across the organization to effect change, which is really how you drive the ROI, right? So yeah, I agree. I think we’re a long ways away from being out of a job because of a machine. I thought that was funny when people were first talking about it and I think it’s funnier now. There’s no way you can automate things.

[00:26:21]

Ted Pulsifer: But at the same time, I can see why that would be a fearful moment for people because if most of your career-if you’re a 20-year market researcher, then in the ’90s you probably spent most of your time doing data collection and writing reports and copying and pasting. And so now that a lot of those features have gone away, I can see why there’d be some fear and uncertainty of, “Well, what am I gonna do now?” But if you actually say by taking away some of these operational things-which I think the industry’s done a good job of doing and touting. And we’re still working on that in certain areas, but I think a lot of that heavy lifting has been done. Then all the sudden you actually say, “Look, we’re gonna free you up for more thinking time and more analysis time.” It’s actually a pretty cool thing to be a part of so.

[00:27:05]

Jamin Brazil: You’re right. You’re talking to me right in my lane with over 20 years in the space, started in 1996. So through my career, the majority of my time was spent in operational considerations, not on the tactical side. And the reason that Decipher was actually formed was Jayme Plunkett and myself, we recognized that there was an opportunity to do something-to make researchers’ lives easier. It was-literally that was the premise of the business. It’s let’s make life easier as a researcher, so we can spend less time on the operations, copying, pasting or what have you, and more time on the actual analytics. But getting to your point, no matter how good a platform is at automating, at least in my experience, there was always some level of change, always some level of additional attention that needed to get paid, and then that time benefit is ultimately offset at a minimum-or the best case scenario by us being able to spend more time in the analytics. So and then getting into the why also becomes really interesting. So understanding the meta layer of what’s driving a good survey versus a bad survey or good outcome versus a bad out-insight. You have so much data you can actually become the spokesperson, but that takes time too. So that was the piece that I felt was-I think is important is that if-and I will say this, that the companies that have relied on the traditional longitudinal surveys to drive revenue at half a million dollar annual budgets, they have been under attack and that has been a material disruption with automated platforms coming in and stealing that share for pennies on the dollar in some cases. So yeah, you’re absolutely right. There’s been a lot-there’s a lot of people that are upset about that transition, but gosh, what is it? Darwin that said, “It’s not the smartest or the fittest that survive. It’s those that are more adaptable.”

[00:28:55]

Ted Pulsifer: Yeah and I certainly think that would proliferate across multiple industries. In fact, we might be a little slower than some other industries that have to do that. If you look at a 10 or 15 or 20 year time horizon, look at all the changes in maybe the financial industry from advertising-I mean, I’ll date myself. I’m in my mid-40s so I remember being in college and the roaring ’90s and the stock market was booming and every other commercial was about, “We can do 2199 stock trading,” or, “We can do your commissions on your stock trading”. Now it’s like-I saw an ad the other day and it’s literally, “commission-free trading, no minimums, just give us your money.” It’s pretty incredible. So certainly we’re not immune to those industry cycles.

[00:29:38]

Jamin Brazil: What is the biggest issue facing market researchers today?

[00:29:42]

Ted Pulsifer: What a great question. I think we’ve touched on some of it, just staying on top of technology and not in a way that the technology makes you freak out and change all the rudimentary science and the different methodological information that researchers lean on. So not throwing that out. But I think the biggest challenge would be really just keeping up with technology and trends and trying to keep pace with the consumer. The consumer’s very different. So like your point earlier about the Gen Z and the cell phone thing, it’s not limited to them. I get on a plane and I’ll look down the row and everybody from 70 to 7 is on a device or a phone hunched over. So while maybe younger folks are having changes to their body as a result, we’re all doing those same things. We’re all voting with our wallet. We’re all hooked to technology devices faster. I guess I would just say trying to keep abreast of how technology’s gonna change, not only insights, but whatever their core product is in a massive way. Even if you have sort of a mundane offering, like you make toothbrushes or you make paper towels or something like that and you still need to do market research, well just as far as how your consumers buy, rate and review, that’s gonna change. And then if you are in a company that produces a technology-based product, keeping up with the tech, the delivery of that and then also the research and insights behind that. I think that’s just a lot and that’s gonna be the biggest single thing for everybody to keep pace with.

[00:31:08]

Jamin Brazil: I completely agree with that. You’ve been inside of this space and operated at the biggest companies, really, around. When you think about the people that are stand out as successful for you, either on your team or inside of the industry at large, what do you see as the core values or the characteristics of these all-star employees?

[00:31:33]

Ted Pulsifer: That’s a great one. I think one of them is just being humble because even if you work for the best company with the best technology, if-you want to make sure that you are very just well aware of your role within that. And I think that the people and the customers and the folks on my team and other clients and buyers and everybody that we interact with, I really appreciate that quality. It just is disarming and it helps people kind of cut through the noise because the reality is that there is so much innovation around tech and around services. But at the end of the day, if you can’t explain an idea simply and easily, it can really translate to confusion to buyers and internal stakeholders. So I’ve always found that to be a really great trait for me personally. And then thinking back to your example with Ron on those 50 calls. So it’s one thing if you said every salesperson has to do these 50 calls, but how you do the calls matters too. And what I’ve found is the people that I enjoy working with the most, that have helped our business grow so much, are really the ones that are kind of self-motivated, whether it’s sales, technology, operations, programming, any part of this quantitative piece that we sit in. People that kind of start their own engine every day and don’t-and they spend more time anticipating than they do waiting for-to be told for stuff, those are my absolute favorite folks to work with. And really that translates over to clients as well. People that are just thinking about, “Hey, we launched this project. It’s going. I’m looking at it. I wanted to test this over. I have these ideas. What do you think,” is so much better than saying, “Hey, what’s the latest on this? Give me an update.” So I just-I love-I’m addicted and I get fueled off being around self-starters.

[00:33:24]

Jamin Brazil: So self-starters and humble. The humble thing kind of plays nicely into one of the points that you raised, which is being able to accept new or changes in the industry. So it isn’t having the-operating from a point of dogma of “this is just the way it is. I’m always gonna use a 5-point scale, never an 11-point scale,” or what have you. So it has this almost adaptability component to it that it unlocks if you employ that characteristic. So now for our last question, which has turned into probably my favorite. What is your personal motto?

[00:34:00]

Ted Pulsifer: So I can’t take full credit. I have to say my wife helped instill this and we kinda use it as a couple and it helps with personal life and professional life and it’s pretty simple, but it’s more, “Life is not really what happens. It’s more about how you handle it.” So mine would be it’s all about how you handle it. And so an example is you’re stressed, you get to the airport, you get there, your flight’s delayed and they look at you and say, “Yeah, it’s canceled. See you.” It just sends this chill down your spine. But if it’s a, “I’m so sorry to tell you this happened. I booked you on the other flight and there’s nothing I can do. Let me help you.” And so weird example, but I’ve really found that sort of adversity, success, failure, being hired, being fired, good, bad, all these things happen to you in life, but how you handle them is what really defines you. And so of course as a consumer, it’s easy to walk through examples, but I think the same’s true for a business, just kind of how you roll with things and how you take change and adversity and what you do with it. So that is mine, how you handle it. It’s all about how you handle it.

[00:35:06]

Jamin Brazil: My guest today has been Ted Pulsifer, CRO at Market Cube. Thank you, Ted, for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today.

[00:35:12]

Ted Pulsifer: Thank you so much.

[00:35:15]

Jamin Brazil: It was an absolute honor. If you found value in this episode, I certainly did, please take time, screen capture, share. As always, your five star ratings help other people find this podcast. Have a great rest of your day.