Ep. 404 – Two of the Biggest Mistakes Companies Make When Doing Market Research and how to Avoid Them
My guest today is Ken Roshkoff, President at AMC Global (formerly Attitude Measurement Corporation).
Founded in 1989, AMC Global was founded on their proprietary Purchaser Follow-up tool which gathers feedback from REAL PURCHASERS of new or restaged products immediately following launch.
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Jamin Brazil: Hey everybody, I’m Jamin. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Ken Roshkoff, president at AMC Global, formerly Attitude Measurement Corporation. Founded in 1989, AMC Global was founded on their proprietary purchaser follow up tool, which gathers feedback from real purchasers of new or restaged products immediately following launch. Ken has held this position at AMC since their early years. Ken, welcome to the show.
Ken Roshkoff: Thanks for having me Jamin, it’s great to be here.
Jamin Brazil: This message is brought to you by Displayr. How much of your analysis and reporting time is spent doing manual tasks? All that cutting and pasting, formatting, checking for mistakes, redoing work, using too many tools, and trying just to figure it all out. Try Displayr today. It’s software that automatically does the painful tasks for you. Thousands of companies already use Displayr to cut their analysis and reporting time literally in half. I use the platform, I love, and I know. Get a demo and free trial and displayr.com/happy, spelled displayr.com/happy. This episode is brought to you by SurveyMonkey. Almost everyone is taking 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 seven new expert solutions for concept and creative testing. With built in customizable methodologies, 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’s market research solutions, visit surveymonkey.com/market-research. That’s surveymonkey.com/market-research.
Jamin Brazil: I found it interesting that you were part of I guess AMC Global now, I got to get used to saying that, for 30 years. I’m really curious, tell us a little bit about your parents and how they informed your career.
Ken Roshkoff: So I actually grew up around market research. My father founded our company in 1979, he was a true researcher, loved to be in the data, crunching the numbers and doing the project work. My mom was in the business for a while as well, she worked in our accounting department, and they were super supportive parents. Took every opportunity they could as I was growing up though to drop hints and mention ways that I could fit into the business. When I came out of undergrad, I was a marketing major, decided to give it a shot, and confirmed for myself I absolutely hated it. At the time, we’re doing lots of work for agricultural chemical companies and industrial chemical companies and it just wasn’t that interesting to me. So I was always more interested in consumer packaged goods and decided after about eight months in the business to go back to grad school and get an MBA. And when I was coming out of grad school, I decided to give my dad’s company another shot, but thought I’d go about it a little bit differently, rather than running projects that were focused on industries I had no interest in, I decided I want to try and sell projects in to major CPG companies. I basically took a methodology that my father had developed for his clients to generate extremely high rates of response for mail surveys, and I applied this to the CPG space, and this became what’s known today as our PFU program, or Purchaser Follow Up and during the process of building out this program, I also got a number of patents approved. So the whole experience of developing a unique methodology, marketing it to major CPG companies, selling in my own projects, learning on my own projects, as well as applying for and being granted several patents along the way. Now all these things are kind of attributed to hooking me on a long term career in marketing research.
Jamin Brazil: So paper surveys, people probably don’t – unless you’re old, like me, you really don’t have an appreciation. I remember doing multiple market studies and the volume of paper, right? The administration around distributing this actual surveys, paper based surveys to markets was – it was a big logistical challenge. Were you exposed to a lot of that growing up?
Ken Roshkoff: I was definitely exposed to a lot of paper based surveys, and there definitely were logistical challenges involved, very happy that things have kind of moved well beyond that at this point. The internet has done great things for our industry and just makes everything so much easier.
Jamin Brazil: Did your parents have you involved in helping with more of the basic type stuff in your formative years?
Ken Roshkoff: Yes, being a little kid around the business like this, I grew up working in our coding department, did a little bit of tab work, lot of collating surveys and back to the paper based stuff you mentioned, putting a lot of those together or stapling them, getting them off to telephone interviewing facilities that were going to be do the pencil and paper interviews, but clearly, I think we’re dating ourselves here.
Jamin Brazil: It’s amazing how the internet, because it obviously is a digital environment has aided us so tremendously in getting rid and stripping away a lot of that old school or manual work. I am interested though, today is election day in the US and paper ballots are still a part of the process oddly enough. Are mail surveys – have they stabilize? There is some that are still – some projects that still require a mail based data collection, do you think that space is pretty much hit the spot where it will reside for the foreseeable future?
Ken Roshkoff: I think so, I don’t see it – I certainly don’t see it growing from this point. If anything, I think it’s going to start to taper off.
Jamin Brazil: Got it. Let’s talk a little bit about AMG Global, in your product description and I found this super interesting because I haven’t seen this in any other product description before. Real Purchasers is capitalized, so the term Real Purchasers is in all caps, why is that?
Ken Roshkoff: So this is referencing one of the key benefits of our PFU program, especially when it comes to new product launch research. Many companies are offering panel based solutions for capturing insights from consumers who claim to be purchasers of specific new products. What our clients often tell us is that after doing further digging, they often find that many of the consumers who are participating in their surveys, who claimed to have purchased, did not actually purchase the appropriate product. With our PFU program, it really enables us to be a 100% certain that the respondents who participate in our surveys are actual purchasers or Real Purchasers of our client’s products, and it made the purchase within the past day or so. The ability to guarantee insights from Real Purchasers and the speed at which we can provide these insights are two of our key differentiators. With many of the more traditional panel based solutions, depending upon the product category, it could take six months or longer until enough consumers claim to have purchased the new product being tested, and our deal is that waiting six months or more to field a study among consumers who claim to buy a certain product is taking way too long. By this time, if results are not positive, the product could already be headed into a downward spiral. So the way that we’ve built out our program, the PFU methodology, it utilized in-pack or on-pack survey invitations that are designed in such a way that, they’re not going to impact the purchase decision and these invites typically incorporate what we call a response cache incentive system, and this is what drives extremely high rates of response among early purchasers of our client’s new products. We start getting results as early as day one of a new product launch. So many of our clients come to us because they want to be able to generate the information, they need from their new product purchasers as early as they can possibly get it, in order to make sure that the product, the package and the marketing plans are performing as anticipated. Having these insights so early in the launch can really enable our clients to take corrective actions early on. If any kind of modifications are needed and if we determine that everything’s going really well, we can wrap the results up into a retail selling story that our client’s sales teams can use when they’re calling up the accounts.
Jamin Brazil: Are you – I’m trying to think through what that looks like. Is there a post purchase intercept? Are you generating the lead for the company?
Ken Roshkoff: So we place a little invitation either on the package or in the package, so when a consumer happens to buy one of the few products that actually contains this invitation, they’re responding to us. They see this invite, typically there’s an offer for some sort of incentive, usually it’s a prepaid cash card that they’re going to receive after they participate in multiple phases of our research program. So the beauty of the whole program is there’s no screening involved. People are recruiting themselves essentially by buying the appropriate products, and it’s in a real world environment, after the products have been mass produced, shipped, and handled, tossed in shopping carts, consumers are buying it with their own money and using it in a real world environment. So it provides the most accurate information immediately post launch.
Jamin Brazil: Most seasoned researchers have heard of Attitude Measurement Corporation, I know I was really excited, my previous company too, had the opportunity to even pitch you guys. Why the rebrand to AMC Global?
Ken Roshkoff: So the decision to change our company name was not an easy one, but there are several reasons why we went ahead and did it. First, Attitude Measurement Corporation is a mouthful, early on I used to do lots of phone calls and every time I had to say our company name, I would cringe. It was too long and it was also a bit too descriptive. We do a lot more than just attitudinal research, many of the studies that we run involve behavioral components, sometimes it’s observed behavior, other times it may be claim behavior, sometimes we’re using implicit techniques to get at the subconscious of consumers. I should also mention many of our clients were already beginning to refer to us simply as AMC, and the Global came into play because we wanted to play at the fact that much of the work we were doing is actually global in nature, so it just seemed to make sense to transition into AMC Global. Believe it or not, I actually started planning for the name change in the early 90s, I think around the time when we had to come up with a website and our domain name for our emails, we made the website amcglobal.com and our domain is @amcglobal.com, so we knew ultimately the plan was to go there, but it took a while to actually make the official change, transition. We didn’t actually do it until maybe five years ago.
Jamin Brazil: Was it just a slow transition? Or was there an impetus for, OK now we got to do it?
Ken Roshkoff: I think it was just the fact that so much more of our work was becoming global in nature, and Attitude Measurement Corporation, it just sounded really dated. So I think it was around the time we did a major rebranding of the company or our website, we just figured let’s just do it all in one shot and update the logo and everything as well.
Jamin Brazil: And the nice part about how you guys did the rebrand is you didn’t really lose any brand equity or SEO because it is an acronym.
Ken Roshkoff: Sure.
Jamin Brazil: And so that’s – one of the things I’ve seen is you’ll have these mainstay big companies, SSI is a good example, Survey Sampling International is a – is such an iconic brand in our space, all of that brand equity that was built up over the years was subsequently lost during the acquisition of Research Now, now combined, it’s called Dynata. So those are – while they might seem, it’s just a name, it’s just a name, but those can be very disruptive across the board, especially to organic search on Google.
Ken Roshkoff: But I think it’s – for some of these companies, it just makes sense. It’s more keeping with the times, it’s everything seems to be streamlining and why not streamline a long, kind of old fashioned company name.
Jamin Brazil: Yes, 100%, 100%. In terms of your lead flow, did you get a lot of leads through or do you get leads through the website or is it more traditional kind of outbound sales?
Ken Roshkoff: It’s a combination. I’d say it’s not as much traditional outbound sales at this point. I’d say most of our business comes from – it’s repeat business, client referrals. Definitely the website has more impactful recently, the last time we went through a rebranding, we also started really integrating some SEO and started theme work, I guess out there on certain social media sites posting more and putting relevant content out there for clients and potential clients, and that’s actually worked to drive more sales.
Jamin Brazil: We’re at this fascinating point in market research where you’ve got a cohort of new buyers coming in to buying authority, then their comfortability with leveraging digital technology is much greater than previous generations in our space. And now these individuals have budgetary authority. My thesis is that we’re going to see an increase on the importance of organic search results or SEO in our space because people are going to naturally turn to the internet as, Google, how do I dot, dot, dot, fill in the blank, that particular thing, and so it’s just becoming critical that your company has an answer to that question assuming that’s relevant to your business and your customers. I’m not saying that it – I’m not saying that social referrals are less important by any means, but – because those will always a play role. It definitely feels like we are stepped into, especially in context of the global pandemic.
Ken Roshkoff: Absolutely.
Jamin Brazil: You’ve been in business for a little while.
Ken Roshkoff: Yes.
Jamin Brazil: [CROSSTALK] three decades. Given your view, what are two of the biggest mistakes that companies make, either doing or using market research?
Ken Roshkoff: So a lot of companies these days have this emphasis on agile insights and they want everything faster and cheaper, and my view on this is you’re getting what you pay for. A lot of times they’re making decisions, critical decisions based upon data that really is not the best quality and doesn’t provide the perspective that they should have when making some of these critical decisions.
Jamin Brazil: So the tension there is, I actually think agile’s probably one of the most overused words. Additionally, I don’t even in truth how many platforms or companies are actually agile, capable of employing agile insights into decision making process, almost feels like this funny, trendy word that we’ve applied to separate ourselves, but there’s definitely been a trend in recent years – gosh, recent years, this is like my entire career, right? It used to be the case, better, faster, cheaper too, and now you’ve got all three.
Ken Roshkoff: Yes.
Jamin Brazil: [CROSSTALK] of this stool. Where are you seeing the costs being cut out at the expense of the quality of the insights?
Ken Roshkoff: I would say companies are relying on often the like you said, the faster and cheaper, and they’re not getting the better. And sometimes they’re using panel based solutions which are just frankly not the optimal choice for addressing their business issues. Sometimes a more custom, strategic approach and something that may end up costing a little bit more but will provide a higher level of quality overall and more actionability is the way to go.
Jamin Brazil: It does feel like over the last five – even less than that, the last three years, there’s been this – it doesn’t feel like, quantifiably it’s the case, it used to be the case we had our average cost per complete or CPI was a bell curve, right? And center of that bell curve was around six to eight dollars, and now you can get presumably the same profile that used to cost you six to eight dollars at about a buck to a buck 50, and where my head goes with that is, you think about all the different people or organizations rather that are involved in getting that respondent to the survey, or that person to the interview. There’s at least three companies that are involved in that transaction, and then the fourth in that scenario is the participant. So how much is the participant actually getting? Maybe 10, maybe 25 percent of the actual CPI as an incentive, and then they’re expected to spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to qualify for the project and then in addition to that, actually participate in the 15 to 17 minute survey. I think for some reason we as researchers have just kind of – are really happy about paying less, but not asking the hard questions of does that actually make sense? The actual economics.
Ken Roshkoff: I think the reason a lot of them can get by now and a lot of studies were getting by with paying as a little dollar per complete is because there are so many professional respondents out there that have signed up to be part of these panels. They’re just looking for opportunities to participate in surveys. We still do a lot of programs where especially the PFU program that I mentioned previously, is one where we actually pay these respondents top dollar to get them to participate. We’re often giving for our surveys, 20 to 40 bucks per complete, directly to the consumer. And we do it because we don’t want just professional respondents, we don’t want the people who want to vent about the product and neither absolutely love it or hate it. We want those who love it, hate it, and everything in between. And the best way to get that and to get a representative sample, our view is to find true consumers out there, not those who are inclined to participate in marketing research panels, but get a truly representative sample of consumers, to group them and have them provide the insights that the clients need to make the decisions.
Jamin Brazil: Today is November 3rd, 2020 and we have probably one of the most important elections in my lifetime, especially in the context of the crazy year that we’ve experienced, globally and even specifically in the States. Market research has gone through just a massive overhaul, qualitative research specifically being hit due to COVID, no one being able to do in person, and all that research either being put on hold, stopped, or converted to digital. So with this unusual place where we’re sitting, I’m really interested, what are three predictions that you have for market research in the next three years?
Ken Roshkoff: Definitely think there’s going to be more consolidation in our industry. I think lots of the big conglomerates are going to continue to gobble up the smaller players. I think new technologies will continue to grow in our space, there are going to be more offerings probably in the areas of video analysis, voice analysis and machine learning. I think that while technology is going to keep moving forward and there will be newer and more technologically advanced ways of trying to understand consumer’s subconscious minds, these techniques are not going to fully replace the tried and true methodologies that provide the insights those in the C suites of major corporations can totally understand. I think it may be viewed as cool to leverage the latest tech that’s out there, but we’ve got to remember that the folks up in the C suites are not all scientists. They still want to know what their target consumers have to say about their products and services, especially if things aren’t going well. It’s certainly important to leverage the latest and greatest technologies, but you need to use a proper balance of methodologies in order to provide a complete understanding of what’s going on with your target audience. So even though there will continue to be great, new technological advancements that companies including AMC Global will take advantage of, I still strongly believe that there’s going to be the place for a bit more traditional, attitudinal, and behavioral insights that major corporations have been relying on for so many years.
Jamin Brazil: Glad to hear you say that. I actually completely agree with that sentiment. I think you’re going to continue to see a plethora of nonresearchers leveraging easy to use DIY tools, but to your point, marketing research in context of the exec – the C suite, is going to be leveraging market researchers to conduct their studies, because there is a scientific rigor involved in what we do every day. That it’s just, we can’t replace it with an off the shelf product.
Ken Roshkoff: Absolutely.
Jamin Brazil: Last question, what is your personal motto?
Ken Roshkoff: Personal motto? Don’t wait for opportunities, create them. Kind of feel like when it comes to growing a business, you can’t just sit back and wait for opportunities to present themselves, you’ve got to get out there and be aggressive.
Jamin Brazil: My guest today has been Ken Roshkoff, president at AMC Global, formerly Attitude Measurement Corporation. Thank you, Ken, for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.
Ken Roshkoff: Thank you Jamin.
Jamin Brazil: Everyone else, it was an honor to be able to spend a little bit of time with you. If you found value in this episode like I did, I hope you’ll take time to screen capture, share it on social media. If you tag myself, I will give you a free Happy Market Research t-shirt. That’s all I’ve got for you, have a great rest of your day.