Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 123 – Lori Iventosch-James, Senior Director of Customer and Market Research at GoDaddy

Today, my guest is Lori Iventosch-James, Senior Director of Customer and Market Research at GoDaddy. GoDaddy is the largest registrar of internet domain names and offers a full range of tools to help you build your online presence.

Prior to working at GoDaddy, Lori has been a leader at top market research firms and technology companies. Additionally, she is a Ph.d candidate in Educational Psychology, specializing in Quantitative Methods at UC Berkeley.



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



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Twitter: @happymrxp

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LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch/


Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. Today my guest is Lori Iventosch-James, senior director of customer and market research at GoDaddy. GoDaddy is the largest registrar of internet domains and offers a full range of tools to help you build your online presence. Prior to working at GoDaddy, Lori has been a leader at top market research firms and technology companies. Additionally she is a Ph. D. candidate in educational psychology specializing in quantitative methods at UC Berkeley. Lori, thank you very much for being on the Happy Market Research podcast today.


I’m happy to be here.


We’d like to start out with a little bit of a background on even before your career. Tell us about your parents and how they have affected who you are today.


Absolutely. My father was a small business owner. He owned a small variety store in Montclair, California. Not too far from here. And I worked at his store a number of summers when I was a teenager. And I always enjoyed it. But overall I developed a deep appreciation of small business by observing my father and how hard he worked. And how much pleasure he got out of his store, his employees and also just the whole local community. His store Freeway Variety, it was called, was just super super popular. And it’s funny because I was contacted by a group who have a Facebook page called Forgotten Montclair. And they have a whole bunch of posts all about Freeway Variety, reminiscing about it. And the candy counter et cetera. I’m so just the impact of that small business. And so really in my career I’ve had a variety of roles, but my favorite has been where I get an opportunity to work with small businesses. I just find their passion to be incredibly inspiring. And it certainly is one of the reasons I chose to go to GoDaddy.


GoDaddy has a suite of tools that extend beyond just domain registration. Right? That help aid small businesses.


Yeah, absolutely. And that’s what I think, again, is one of the exciting things about being here is while we’re best known as a domain registrar certainly in the US but also worldwide. We also offer a whole suite of tools for small businesses to kind of grow their online presence. How they show up online. So it’s both websites, if you want to do it yourself or we can build it for you. All sorts of different tools for really growing that, your customer base through email marketing, through online marketing and digital tools. We have email productivity tools and now just more recently, we acquired a company that focuses on social media management. And how all of those different things kind of come together to help those small businesses succeed.


Now having that, I’ll call it early career, right? It’s the pre-college. As a small business owner I’d imagine your father had you in the store fairly regularly and getting that first-hand experience of what it was like to successfully grow and maintain. I imagine that, that perspective helps inform sort of your hypotheses when you’re conducting research.


It does. It does. And I think that again just really understanding kind of that mindset. And in the end everything is on their shoulders, the small business owner. And so figuring out how you can really help make their lives easier in a variety of different ways to just lighten up that load. I mean the good news is, is that is also incredibly powerful and exciting for them because they are running their business and making it happen. But there are so many different things that they need to do at any given time and to the degree that we can try and help them and make it easier for them. And of course again, many moons ago when I was working at my father’s store we didn’t have the kind of tools that we have now to help make small businesses successful. It was obviously not a whole lot of digital was going on at that point.


Yeah, it definitely has changed the landscape, but I do think, especially at the S&B level, I’m talking about like brick and mortar S&B. That customer experience is one of the primary differentiators versus like an Amazon or whatever big box you might want to throw at it. It’s funny how these companies, small companies are leveraging more and more insights integrated into their POSs to help govern, take a temperature of their customer, weather it’s satisfaction or repeat purchase behaviors, so that sort of thing. So this is a much higher level of sophistication that is operating really at that off the street level.


Absolutely. And its wonderful. Technology has provided so much more and again in some cases I think for small businesses it can be kind of overwhelming. Because there’s so much data and so many things and what do I pay attention to and what does it really mean and where do I invest my money and what’s the return on investment for it? So while that’s awesome and wonderful it’s also pretty intimidating. And the other thing that you said, and I think it’s super important is really when you do spend time talking to small businesses, one of the things that is really most important to them is the service they provide. And nine times out of 10 they will say that is their key differentiator. And again particularly the local small businesses that service and knowing their customer and providing that extra level of service is just huge in terms of their business and how they feel about being able to serve their customers


In about, this coming Tuesday, I’m going to be conducting a how to do satisfaction to increase your income. Lunch and Learn here in Fresno, where I’m inviting a bunch of small businesses to come in and I’m just going to walk them through some free tools and how they can track that customer satisfaction and actually generate an ORI based on those numbers. But you’re right there’s like a, it’s super intimidating for these guys and gals because they don’t understand the base, the research basics. And it is a huge opportunity to help improve and shore up their customer relationships. Obviously, Survey Monkey you’re familiar with their recent filing for their IPO. A big player in this space. Does GoDaddy aspirations to move that direction, do you think?


That’s a really interesting point. You know I think we definitely given kind of the place where we are in terms of helping small businesses succeed and all those tools. So some of those tools are going to be very kind of quantitative in terms of helping them get stats on their website or you know again ORI on an email campaign et cetera. At the moment that kind of direct query isn’t really high on the list, at least that I have been aware of. But I do think that it’s part, it is part of where we would help guide small businesses to really understand their customers. And that’s, certainly surveys, interviews et cetera. Really anyway that they are able to get closer to their customers and that’s something that’s really kind of in our DNA at GoDaddy, is how do we get super close to our customers. Keep our finger on the pulse of our customers. And truthfully I think for any small business that is truly one of their key elements of their success.


So I teach an MBA course on entrepreneurship and I spend a little bit of time, I say a little bit of a time it’s about 4 hours actually of total class time. Talking about the importance of building your network and their peers, will, who I would say call it 28 fairly early in their career, are going to be the CEOs, the CMOs, the head of insights of companies in 20 years. Right? So you certainly, nobody starts their career as an executive. Can you kind of walk us through your career path both on the agency side and then how that’s helped you in your delivery of insights inside of major brands like GoDaddy?


Sure, I’d be happy to. I think I did start, well actually I started in academia for many years at Berkeley. And that’s really where I kind of developed my affinity for more quantitative metrics and measures. But I worked on the agency side or the vendor side for many years and it was really a terrific way to kind of grow your expertise. To learn about all the different kinds of methodologies, different industries and grow and kind of build your expertise. But what I did find after a number of years is that you do these projects and they would be terrific and wonderful, and you would present the results and you’d hand it off and then you’re on to your next project and your next project. And what I really came to miss or feel like I needed is to see where those projects actually went. So how did those projects really drive the business? What business decisions did they make? How did they inform and change the business? And so that’s part of why I moved over into the what we call the client side. As in being the expert in a business. Is that to me one of the most exciting things I can do is do some really great research. And then help and see how that research informs our executives, informs decisions and really help steer the company to better decisions. Again, to me that is just the pinnacle of success. I guess for my kind of world it’s not just doing great research, which is good. But doing great research that helps drive the business and helps the business make key decisions in a really intelligent informed way.


Kristi Zuhlke of KnowledgeHound, I did an interview with her, I think it just went public actually on Friday. But she was talking about research needs to have an ROI. And I love that framing and I really feel like if researchers could, either internal or external, agencies or internal managers of research at brands, could get their head around that thinking about for example, companies churn rates. We have as researchers an awesome opportunity to do follow-up research on the subset of the customers that churn in order to understand how we can help eliminate that attrition. And that’s super easy to be able to create a direct connection to revenue. Are you seeing that sort of direct connection to revenue as a major part of the output of research?


Yeah, absolutely. I mean again depending on the type of research we do. You know one of the things that more recently we have a new CEO, Scott Wagner, who moved into the role about 6, 9 months ago. And he is complete customer obsessed. Really really passionate about the customer. So much so that when he really first started he said, you know what my bonus is going to be tied to net promoter or customer’s loyalty. That’s what my bonus is. In fact the whole company is going to be bonused on net promoter. And you have no idea what the kind of, everybody from our technical people to of course the people who are doing research are all taking a big gulp. But it’s awesome because it’s this incredible passion for it. And so needless to say while we were doing that promoter for many years this really changed the game. When you start thinking about net promoters going to become one of our key metrics, our KPIs and    associated with our bonuses. And so we’ve done a ton of additional research and really have been able to some interesting kind of predictive modeling around lifetime value of our customers and how that ties back to net promoter and what the kind of customers are. Where customers might be churning and falling off. And what does that really mean to us? And so, yeah I think there are definitely ways to be able to turn kind of research into a really more predictive modeling and give us great direction in terms of what we can do. You know really to increase the loyalty of our customers, to retain our customers. And to build that deep deep loyalty.


Oh my gosh. So a couple of things. I’ve just got to unwind a little bit. One is, Scott your new CEO, I love how he created a unifying KPI across your organization that really drives that bonus. To how you described it, how then that completely changes the view of net promoter. Right? And whether net promoter is or isn’t right isn’t really the point here. The point is that you’re putting the customer in the middle of the conversation when you’re making decisions on where are we going to invest from an R&D perspective, sales focus, et cetera, et cetera. And as you’re saying, moving from a laggard to a forward-looking KPI where your modeling outcomes based on our predictions, based on changes of behavior. That is fundamentally exactly I think the right way for research to be able to help steer the ship.


Absolutely. And you know you said it right. There’s many people who disagree or argue about net promoter and is it predictive and is it the right measurement? But to your, it’s not net promoter per se. It’s that focus on the customer. And the focus on doing right by the customer. And so the number, well you know we track it, and we’ve definitely built up a pretty robust system. It’s more importantly what are they saying? What’s behind it? And when we see problems and detractors are popping up and we really dig into try and understand what’s driving it. That’s where the real golden is. The number it’s helpful, but the gold is in understanding what is driving the number and the customer promotion. Great. And or detraction. And that has proven to be super helpful for us. We’ve got a boatload of different projects targeted at key areas we’ve identified from our net promoter program. And are really making great strides. And again it goes back to previously it was a harder sale to say we need to do this, maybe a change in our renewal pricing. And what’s the benefit. It was very hard to sell a benefit without the numbers behind it and competing with well yeah but here’s the revenue we get. So now we’re in a much better position to be able to really quantify the benefit and the return by making some of these changes.


What is the number one gap that you’re seeing in the market research space and specifically what you wish market research firms would offer in order to help you do your job?


And I’m sure you’ve probably heard this in a bunch of your conversations. For me it’s speed. I’ve been in research for many years and there was a time where you have a discussion with your client and you talk to a vendor and then you go back and forth and then you start the research and literally a couple months go by before you have your insights and then you go back to your client who is excited to see the results et cetera. Again everybody was pretty comfortable with that. But the speed of decision-making is so much faster and particularly, not surprisingly among companies like GoDaddy or internet-based companies. They’re going to, our executives are going to make decisions. They need to make decisions very quickly. They will make them with or without my insights. And I  really really really want them to have my insights to make the better decisions. And so from my perspective that’s where I am kind of caught, that Catch 22, is being able to get insights very quickly, be pretty confident in the accuracy of those insights. And so speed for me is really key. And being able to turn research around not in three months or two months but in a couple of days and maybe 2 weeks is critical. And so the tools that help me to do that and the services that help me to do that are definitely areas where we focus, and we constantly try and look at what’s new out there that allows us to do that.


It takes a ton of time to canvas the current suite, I’ll call it new tech in market research. These are companies that have been around for maybe less than four years.


Yeah, I get deluged with emails from folks. And again, for me, it’s really what’s unique, what’s new, what is going to really make my job easier. And if that’s not pretty obvious, then there’s not going to be a conversation.


So great. The importance of having your unique value proposition dialed in and then listening. This is one of my big pet peeves is if you pay attention to brands, they’re telling you what they want at a social level. And so, if you’re just monitoring that you can start identifying where you might be able to help add value to them, which then hopefully informs how you’re presenting your solution to the company. And just going to say it, just completely plainly. And that is obviously ROI on research and speed to incite, right? So just tethering those two things into your overall solution. And I’m talking about real delivery here, not just words, right? That where the value is. And my hypothesis is part of the issue with market research is we haven’t done a great job of getting in front of the trends in data. And so meaning, specifically speed to insights. So that’s left a lot of wide space for what’s now been termed CX or customer experience. And I’m seeing a lot of overlap in terms of the types of projects that are done, whether it’s satisfaction, customer segmentation, et cetera, et cetera, in across these two disciplines. How are you addressing that inside of GoDaddy?


That’s great. I think and I have certainly in my experience seen where customer experience, user experience is a completely separate organization from “research and/or market research”. And I think that’s just a big mess. At GoDaddy, we actually have part of my team is both the market research and as well as the user experience and the customer experience research. And so we span across all sorts of different projects. But the insights are really what’s critical is bringing those together. And so and that by having us all report into kind of the same organization that gives that broader picture, we’re able to be a lot more holistic in how we present our insights, how we look across insights, to be able to confirm and to end or leverage other insights. And so like my CX or UX group or is very, very close with our product teams. And they work directly with the product teams and trying to figure out how the customers using our products, how that end to end flow of our products is a good experience or not, some cases. They do lots of bench marking to try and understand how we are getting better and the end flow. And also how we stack up against the competition. And that’s great compliments to some of the other research we’re doing without maybe looking at. Again, obviously, Net Promoter comes in here because we look at our product Net Promoter, and how is that? That’s the ultimate kind of big picture goal. So we have insights at many, many different levels. And the ability to have them kind of all come together and be able to look at that is I think, extremely helpful, and it also fosters great work across. And so, again, my market researchers work with my UX researchers, and there’s no silos involved there where they can really do complimentary work and leverage each other’s work. And I think that one of the things I also really encourage people to do is bring in the analytics folks. And again, they are not currently part of my org, but there’s tons of opportunity to leverage our insights to drive better testing and/or from the analytics to be able to put more information around what those trends mean, and the why behind some of the analytics that we see and some of the tests that we see. And so that’s another area where we’re really trying to become much more integrated, again, all about insights.


One of the themes I’ve been hearing that’s come up is these SOA and NAWA of research and you can think real hair for that at LinkedIn. I love that sort of ending of, OK, we’ve done this stuff, but now we have to actually put a stake in the ground. And that helps the business drive itself forward. It’s interesting how you guys are unifying your insights underneath the market research largely, and then helping the entire organization. Seeing the benefit of that, I think one of the dysfunctions inside of organizations is speed to insights or the necessity for speedy insight has really fostered the utilization of tools that are easy to use to get to the customer voice. But without having that broader view, they can offer conflicting outcomes or hypotheses to the business which ultimately isn’t helping anybody.


No, and there’s so many examples of where if you looked purely at the numbers like website conversion, and this is a company I used to be at and they did something that I thought was really a bad idea from a customer view, but they saw conversion go up, and everybody was high five and celebrating. But I happen to have an interceptor survey on the website to be able to get the experience as well. And oh, my goodness, you should have seen the round result from that survey, though, even conversion was going up, customers were furious about this particular change, particularly a sub group of customers. And so without that, everybody would have kept going with this one particular approach. That was, again, just a really bad customer experience, purely because the numbers if you were just looking at conversion, it looked pretty good. So I’m a big fan of having both the hard quant and the behavioral stuff and that deeper understanding of what’s really behind it.


Yeah, I mean, revenue is 100% a laggard indicator, right? And so that’s exactly the point. You can make changes to your business and have lift short term but you need to understand what the next six months are going to look like in today’s competitive market or you’re going to help customers really quick.




Let’s shift gears a little bit. A subset of our audience and this actually surprised me, this group was latching onto the podcast, are people who are aspiring to be insights professionals, whether they are at the agency level or at the brand level. What steps would you take if you were trying to get hired in the market research industry today?


Sure. I actually recently hired somebody so I cannot talk to that. I mean, when I look at resumes all the time, I think one of the things that really for me distinguishes a person is their ability to quantify the impact of their work. And it’s hard, it’s not an easy thing to do. Because oftentimes, we do research that will drive a decision but by the time it’s really quantified like as in going into market, et cetera, it’s pretty far down the train. And so one of the things I really recommend and I know I look for is quantification of impact for your research. I don’t care that you can do 15 studies in a month. In fact, I’d wonder about that, I don’t care about that, I don’t care about the beautiful methodological purity of a particular study, or kind of that. What I really want to know is the impact of the kind of research you do because when somebody can share that, that basically tells me that they’re thinking about research driving decisions, research driving change. If you don’t present that, then it’s really easy to seem like you don’t care as much about what the end result of your research is. And so I think that quantifying impact is super important. Don’t just give me a list of all the methods you can do and that you’re very skilled at one thing or another. I think the other one and I already mentioned it is just that familiarity and comfort with analytics. Analytics is a critical piece of really any company’s insights. And so, as a researcher and really an insight professional, you have to be super comfortable with that and understand how that can be leveraged by your research and vice versa, how your research can be leveraged by the analytics. And I think that that in this day and age is pretty critical that you’re able to be able to do that and really give examples about how you’ve been able to leverage more of the analytics and testing. And then finally, obviously we talked about it, I think if you in terms of being able to get it, find the right fit is no surprise, a lot of networking and it’s not like I’m telling it anything that is a big surprise but keeping those contacts with people you’ve worked with in the past is super important. But the other thing that I do think is something that not everybody thinks about is also keeping those contacts with your vendors, your market research firms. I’ve stayed in contact with a lot of ones that I’ve used over the years or continue to use. And interestingly enough, a lot of times if they’ve got a really good relationship within a company, they know about opportunities and jobs that are becoming available and can actually recommend you. So I’m a big fan of saying, “Hey, stay close to your favorite vendors.” And if you are looking, obviously you might want to be kind of quiet about it but there are ways of being able to leverage their connection to a lot of other companies and in a way that can be super beneficial for you. So I think that that’s one of the things that not everybody thinks about but works really well.


I want to just dive in a little bit on the point that you made about impact of insights or research driven decisions as you said which I going to be my quote for this episode, by the way, I love that. In order to pull that off successfully, what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to have both the capacity to operate in a macro level and a micro level, right? So you’ve got to understand what the business cares about, in this case, NPS/ and revenue. And then you’ve got to be able to create that at a execution level, the insights that ultimately deliver on whatever that hypothesis is, that consumer based assumption. We all know that analytics are the cornerstone of research specially today because it’s like it’s becoming a bigger and bigger part of every organization. Data scientists being one of the top jobs, I believe now and hardest to fill. Qualitative and quantitative, what proportion of your budget and your time is spent across those two disciplines?


That’s a good question. I think certainly, when it comes to more of our UX research, that by nature tends to be a lot more qualitative, small group intensive, sitting in front of a computer with using our product. And so that portion of my group is probably, I don’t know, maybe 75% qualitative by nature of what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. My side and more of the marketing research side is probably more quantitative. And so again, I’d probably flip that and say, maybe 75%. As a whole, we’re probably about 50, 50% of the time you put them both together because I think that they fit really obviously, they fit well. It’s that qualitative is wonderful and helpful and just gives you so much richness and depth but you also need to be able to then say and this quantitatively is actually validated by these numbers and give. Again, when you think about your executives that they’re going to want some numbers behind that rich, deep data. And so we do both probably, as I said, on an average probably about 50-50.


I’m seeing a lot of firms incorporating both qualitative and quantitative in the final delivery of the research reports with the intent of building stories inside of the numbers, right, which is a big shift from how was over 20 years ago when I started my career which a bunch of pie charts and tables, right?


I do think you’re right. As I said, I’m quite lucky in being at a company that is so passionate about customers but just that story and that closeness to customers. And we do a ton of customer immersion activities and not truly “research” but our executives, I’ve organized a number of what we call follow me homes where they go out and spend a couple hours with a small business and really just immerse themselves in their day to day life, their challenges, their issues, et cetera. So it’s not true research but it is a huge benefit both to our executives but also across our entire company to just bring you closer to that small business to their experience, to their pain and I just think it’s a super important piece of it and it does. And when I’m sharing some research with them, I can brag and say, “Oh and by the way, here’s Marcia[ph] and this is her experience. And you might even have a video clip and it just brings it to life so much better.


I love the incorporation of videos in quantitative presentations, by the way. I think it’s a super, super powerful. Characteristics of a all star employee at GoDaddy. Who are the people that are standing out? I don’t mean names. I mean, more specifically, like what traits do they have?


That’s great. Well, not surprisingly, I’ll go back to two things that I’ve already mentioned which is the passion for customer. Again, I have a number of people in my team and I don’t think we would be very successful researchers if we didn’t have that kind of underlying passion for the customer and to understand them and to represent their needs. So that’s super important. And not everybody has that, honestly. I think speed, being able to be scrappy when appropriate. I’ve got a big, big project that’s going on that’s extremely strategic, long term vision. That’s a project I’m probably not going to try and be scrappy with because it’s a way too big and the risks, et cetera. But for the most part, the majority of our research needs to be pretty speedy in whichever way we can do that. So I think speed is important. What the other things and you may see this also is I call it just, I think the folks who are extraordinarily curious and curious in that they don’t just take things at face value. Maybe you give them a report, they look at one chart and got it. I think that curiosity and that constant questioning is actually incredibly valuable because it challenges you, it challenge you to think differently. It may uncover unexpected things that again, if you were just looking at, here’s my hypothesis, it’s true or it’s not. And so I definitely see that as a characteristic that is extraordinarily important in at least on my team. People who are really successful is that constant questioning curiosity, just wanting to dig in and really get into the details to understand kind of that deeper, the deeper why behind it.


I don’t know if you have checked out my GoDaddy account but I’ve been a long time user, I have a ton of domains. I don’t know why, I have this like, I’ll come up with this domain, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, that’s such a great name for a company.” And then [LAUGHTER] anyway, I’ve got this graveyard inside of my GoDaddy account of these fantastic domains that I still love and renew. It’s hilarious.


[LAUGHTER] Someday. You know what? Someday you’ll come back and go, “This is the perfect one”, right?


Totally. I know. And I’m not willing to give them up. It’s so funny. So what is GoDaddy offering right now that has you excited for the consumer market?


Oh, consumer, interesting. Well, what’s fascinating, particularly there is, I talk a lot about small business. We talk a lot about the small business but what we realize is that there’s this in this very kind of a gray scale going from a consumer to a small business and we actually have tons of consumers who have our domains, who have websites or blogs, and they vary. There’s a lot of different kinds of consumers who are thinking about you know what, I’m going to have a domain name with my name or my children’s name. Maybe that’s something I want to do because someday I’ll use it or maybe I have an idea that I’d love to do. I don’t have time now, but to your point, a great company name, someday I’m going to get there. So we have a lot of really interesting folks who are, we kind of call them column dreamers in some cases where they may be currently nine to five, et cetera, but they have dreams of becoming a small business or maybe they have dreams of just having what we call side hustle. A side hustle is incredibly common nowadays. Lots of people have, maybe they’re selling on Etsy or eBay or they do something on their own. And so there’s this the spectrum from consumer to small business and we actually serve all of that. So it’s not just small business, even though we talk a lot about small business and their needs are generally kind of greater because their revenue, their livelihood is tied to it. But we also have a pretty big array of customers. And these folks who are kind of what we would call maybe side hustle or independent contractors who also have really significant needs for their online presence. And even people who want to just have a website to share maybe their church information or their kid’s soccer team. So we cater to and try to understand across that entire spectrum, not just small business but across all of that. And again, oftentimes people start with a blog or maybe their social media and that kind of morphs into their side hustle and potentially their business overtime. And so we want to be part of that journey.


My guest today has been Lori Iventosch-Jame, Senior Director of customer and market research at GoDaddy. Lori, thank you very much for being on the Happy Market Research podcast.


That’s my pleasure. Thank you for having me.


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