Ep. 415 – Why did SurveyMonkey Relaunch and What They Discovered Through the Process That Other Market Researchers can Learn From

My guest today is Priyanka Carr, general manager of market research and insights at Momentive. 

Additionally, she is a board member at The Posse Foundation (one of the most comprehensive and renowned college access and youth programs in the U.S.)

Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey) is an American company that develops cloud-based software as a service. It was founded in 1999 and went public in September 2018.  In June 2021, the company announced it was renaming itself as Momentive to better represent a growing business-to-business product suite, while its former namesake SurveyMonkey will remain as a subsidiary survey platform.

Prior to joining Momentive, Pri was an Executive at Bain & Company and was the Doctoral Research Manager at Stanford University where she also holds a PhD in Psychological Science. 

Find Priyanka Online:

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

Website: https://www.momentive.ai/ 

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


[00:00:00]

Jamin Brazil: Hi everybody. I’m Jamin. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. My guest today is Priyanka Carr, General Manager of Market Research and Insights at Momentive. Additionally, she is a board member of the POSSE Foundation, one of the most comprehensive and renowned college access and youth programs in the US. Momentive, formerly SurveyMonkey, is an American company that develops cloud-based software as a service. It was founded in 1999 and went public in September, 2018. In June, 2021 the company announced it was renaming itself as Momentive to better represent a growing business-to-business product suite. While its former namesake SurveyMonkey will remain as a subsidiary survey platform. Prior to joining Momentive, Pri has been an executive at Bain & Company and was the Doctoral Research Manager at Stanford University where she also holds her PhD in psychological science. Pri, welcome to the Happy Market Research podcast.

[00:01:01]

Priyanka Carr: Thank you, Jamin, and thanks for having me.

[00:01:04]

Jamin Brazil: It is an honor. So let’s start with some context. Tell us about your parents, what they did and how that informed what you do today.

[00:01:11]

Priyanka Carr: All right. That’s a really loaded therapist question but I will start there. I was born in India. I lived there until I was about ten years old. And my parents were in import and export and did it for fruits and vegetables while we were in India. But my parents divorced around the time I was ten. I moved to the United States, to Los Angeles, with my mom and my mom kind of showed up in this country with not much to go off of, a little bit of money. And she started a business. So I’ve come from a family of business builders, people who have been scrapping and getting it done. She scaled her business to several million dollars in revenue and kind of ran it all by herself. That has been a strong influence in my life of just learning grit, resilience, and building and gave me my love for beautiful, amazing businesses that are driven by really, really smart decisions, driven by smart people who are hungry for more information. So it shapes everything that I do and the passion with which I live my life.

[00:02:18]

Jamin Brazil: It’s interesting. I’ve had quite a few guests that have come from first-generation American families. And what’s really interesting to me that’s only just now stood out is that the majority of them, the parents actually started a business here in the US as opposed to getting a job.

[00:02:34]

Priyanka Carr: Yep. In a way it’s easier. It’s momentously hard but the culture shift is actually a little bit hard for someone coming right here and the economic opportunity afforded by America is great. There’s risk involved in starting a business but there is also a huge amount of reward associated with it. And they get to set their own terms and work with the people that they choose. So that was great. Her only employee for over three years was me.

[00:03:02]

Jamin Brazil: Did she pay well?

[00:03:05]

Priyanka Carr: Not at all. The most important thing I was paid in a ton of learning.

[00:03:09]

Jamin Brazil: And knowledge is as we know true power.

[00:03:12]

Priyanka Carr: Yes.

[00:03:13]

Jamin Brazil: Let’s talk about SurveyMonkey. Why did you relaunch?

[00:03:16]

Priyanka Carr: The name SurveyMonkey is pretty much synonymous with surveys. We invented the category and defined it for over 20 years. And the invention in our core product, the surveys’ platform, that’s all service has afforded us a ton of opportunity and let us innovate on top of it, seeing customers build and use our product in innovative new ways helped to see that there was really demand on the enterprise side on customer experience and our market research. And because of that growth in our product suite, we decided that it was time for us to have a name that reflected our breadth that is much larger than surveys as well. We have about 8,800 enterprise customers in our product suite today that rely on our enterprise great solutions. Many are using that much more. But what we really differentiate ourselves with is Momentive’s speed, agility that we’re delivering for companies. And we do surveys incredibly well as leaders in the category but we do so much more today including market research and the new name was really a reflection of that.

[00:04:22]

Jamin Brazil: Without sounding too infomercially, and I am by the way a paying member and have been for a few years of SurveyMonkey for three years now.

[00:04:28]

Priyanka Carr: Me too.

[00:04:30]

Jamin Brazil: My favorite feature is the question recommender.

[00:04:32]

Priyanka Carr: Yes.

[00:04:33]

Jamin Brazil: And my question to you about that is because you’re seeing more and more non-professional market researchers actually do research, do you find that it is creating safety rails for the research? Is that part of the reason why it’s in place?

[00:04:49]

Priyanka Carr: It increases the quality of the research that you do and the quality of the survey, which improves the quality of the data that you end up collecting, which improves the quality of the insights that you’re going to get at the very end. And that is what we’re in the business of selling. It is quality insights. And our customers stay with us and continue to pay us like you over years because we deliver something valuable to them. And the value starts at the head end of the research process. So when you’re coming up with the questions to ask when you’re formulating the problem, and that’s why we thought it was really important to take the expertise that we’ve built by seeing a ton of questions being asked over the years and implement that into the product and put guardrails in. The second reason is honestly, a little bit of confidence-building. So if I – I’ve been at Momentive now for a very long time. And if I watch our user journey there are a lot of people that get stuck in the step of just creating a survey but don’t have the confidence to go launch it. So our genius capabilities really help give customers the confidence that here’s a question recommender. It is that is methodologically sound. It is based on good science and good data and gives them the confidence to then go launch the research and start collecting insights that can influence their decision-making.

[00:06:11]

Jamin Brazil: One of the things that Kristen, Luke, and myself always laugh about is we as market researchers are notoriously bad at actually doing market research for our own companies. How did SurveyMonkey, Momentive now use your own solutions in your process?

[00:06:28]

Priyanka Carr: We used it very extensively. It’s one of my favorite things about working for this company has been how deeply imbedded research has been in every decision that we’ve drawn. So this wasn’t a small decision. We have a name that is synonymous with the category. It is probably one of the most well-loved consumer brands out there. We track it. We measure how well it’s doing. And while that name isn’t going anywhere, to put a parent company name above it needed to be good reason. So our CMO and our VP of brand worked in close partnership with our board of directors. We started doing research with our executive team, which we call Horizon. Internal experts, external agencies, and we started doing research first on what is the limitation of our current name. That was the first step of the research process. And we saw that some people had negative associations with the name. And most importantly, the limitations were both on the survey side of just seeing us as survey software; on the Monkey side, seeing us as a little bit cute and silly, which we don’t take ourselves too seriously but we do have some serious software. So then we moved on from there and we’re like all right, next step is going to be to explore new names. We’re going to be testing a lot of potential ideas. So we collected data from 21,000-plus respondents and did market research with those stakeholders. We also collected data internally using our core surveys platform with our employees and with others on potential names. We spent six months trying to come up with a new name actually. So the agency started with 1,000-plus names that we narrowed down to a top-50 list. We used our concept testing solutions to go test against those top 50 names to see how they’d resonate with customers. We trademark knock out searches and then identified the top ten candidates that we have. And then we ran tests globally against those top ten candidates on the names and the visual identity to see with qualitative and quantitative research to see what the impact would be on our potential customer base. So in short, 14-month long, ten studies, 22,442 respondents, seven countries was the amount of research we did leading up to this moment.

[00:08:48]

Jamin Brazil: It’s interesting how connected you or I should say the actual process is around the actual product.

[00:08:58]

Priyanka Carr: Yes.

[00:08:58]

Jamin Brazil: I imagine there was actually, and as you always do, probably one of the bigger users of your own platform that really informs the subsequent development roadmap.

[00:09:06]

Priyanka Carr: It absolutely does. I mean I think we are – it’s been probably the greatest privilege to have access to such great research at my fingertips at Momentive but it also informs a lot of our product strategies because we’re using it. So coming out with a brand tracking product was no coincidence because we were spending a lot of time thinking about brands and brand impact as well.

[00:09:33]

Jamin Brazil: That’s funny. I remember when SurveyMonkey started because I’m that old. There had to be some hesitation about how to – how recognized – given how recognizable SurveyMonkey is as a brand.

[00:09:46]

Priyanka Carr: Yeah. Seven years ago when I joined what was then SurveyMonkey we were talking about is the name too limiting. So in some ways it’s a very, very long journey that we’ve been on. There’s a ton of value in the SurveyMonkey brand. We’ve tested that value and we know that there’s a lot in that. And that name isn’t going anywhere. It is synonymous with online surveys and it is synonymous and well-loved with – it is well-loved by all of our customers as well. We’re delivering a ton of value to our powerful legacy. But a name for the future was something that we needed that was bigger and broader as well. So the data gave us a lot of confidence in that we could do it. The data informed our strategy of both retaining the SurveyMonkey name for our survey set of products while giving us a broader name for our new set of solutions as well. The data did tell us the limits of the name too. Like I said, 20 percent of business buyers were hesitant to buy from SurveyMonkey because they see it as cute, funny, and silly as well. As someone who pitches along with the sales team it was limiting in the sales. It was something to surmount at that moment. And the most common refrain that I ever heard in every sales call is I had no idea SurveyMonkey could do that. You guys do com joint. I had no idea you guys can do that. And there is a part of it being well-loved and synonymous is the fact that there’s a very strong image of what SurveyMonkey is. So we needed a platform to paint a new vision of what we will be in the future as well.

[00:11:20]

Jamin Brazil: I have one of my dear friends, he owns a shoe store, a small retailer. He and his family have run it for gosh, almost two decades. I was trying to explain to him the value of consumer data and tracking it, etc. And he knows that he needs to. Do you think – but has had a hard time – which is funny because we’re such good friends, hard time really connecting the dots in terms of actionable insights if you track with me there.

[00:11:45]

Priyanka Carr: Yeah.

[00:11:46]

Jamin Brazil: At the SMB, truly small, small do you think that’s a growing segment?

[00:11:54]

Priyanka Carr: Yeah. I mean I – like I would love if every decision would be driven by some data. I think it’s growing. It’s not fully there and it doesn’t surprise me that your friend has that reaction because the confidence that I spoke about, it’s a lot of work to confidently go get data and then know what to do with it as well. And this is where I think technology that makes it more and more accessible makes it a little less witchcraft but a little bit more straight to here’s a good question and here’s some answers. That drives the cost down and changes the accessibility of it as well but you don’t need very expensive consultants every time you have a question to ask. That’s going to change that landscape and that shift has been happening in our industry for a while and it’s going to keep continuing. I think that we do actually have a fair number of SMBs make up our customer base at SurveyMonkey. That has been our bread and butter. It’s about increasing the accessibility of really good data about your customers, your employees, and using it to guide your decision-making. But while they’re probably not the largest percentage of our revenue, they’re a really large part of our customer base. We think that is a really, really important practice to build in. So understanding which shoes to stock is going to be meaningful to them and we hope to keep building products that make it really easy that your friend doesn’t have to be an expert in survey science, in designing a really good question to understand market demand, and doesn’t have to be an expert in statistical analysis to understand that A was better than B shoe to stock and optimize demand in his store as well. So that is what we can build a great product for and improve the accessibility for it because I think there’s a lot of fear of the cost and the time and the expertise involved in increasing the access of data for decisions.

[00:13:53]

Jamin Brazil: Do you think like as a category, market research, varying reports, [INAUDIBLE], etc., $46-plus billion-dollar space, do you think there’s leakage in context of the size of the actual opportunity and what I mean by that is like you are seeing a lot of growth in strongly related fields, like user experience for example and CX, etc.

[00:14:16]

Priyanka Carr: Yeah, I think these are all interconnected systems. There’s a reason when we look at – I did this research when I was in the strategy role at Momentive and if you look at the top use cases and the top use cases are very clear, customer experience, market research, employee experience and employee management. And then there’s a long tail of other use cases. The holy grail, especially the intersection between customer experience and market research to really understand a buyer, a user, and a customer throughout – and a potential buyer throughout the full lifecycle and extending that view, I think that’s the holy grail of really smart decision-making. So I can envision a future in which you do a really smart concept test before you launch a product. You take the product to market and you do usability testing against that product. You then get customer feedback ongoing in a lifecycle and you learn that there’s some key product gaps and you bring that back into now testing future concepts and do it again. I think those are all very interrelated. In practice I would say it’s probably ten percent of customers who are at that maturity level that are integrating across the entire customer lifecycle. I think there is definitely leakage and spillover and I think it is a glorious future coming up where we will be able to look at all of this data in an integrated platform. It’s definitely what we’re building at Momentive. But we’re not fully there yet but I think the power is going to be that much more accelerated and the decisions are going to be that much more powerful when we get there.

[00:15:50]

Jamin Brazil: That’s the Holy Grail right is really in the framework of data joints. So the more that you can take external data and connect it to self-reported data then the more context you have for the insight, the more vetting of quality you can do against the participants, and really assuming it’s in an automated way, which it has to be, then it’s also getting to the speed to insight. Do you think we move into – as a space, do you think we move into more of an input business questions and here’s the subsequent survey instrument?

[00:16:25]

Priyanka Carr: Absolutely. I think we’re pretty close there already. Like if you want to do a market sizing survey, your business question is which opportunity is larger. You need to understand market size and market demand and we can templatize what those outputs look like and then the technology is there to be able to analyze that data field automatically, integrate other sources of data together as well, which I agree with you is our glorious future is where we bring in all sorts of experiential data in as well and then give you the insight. I think where it shifts, and I don’t think technology is quite there yet to completely replace this. There is business context. That still needs to be interpreted. And I think that is the researcher’s job especially imbedded in the world of bringing their own expertise to bear. So for example, I could do a perfect market sizing and I’ll speak for our market research business. Should I launch first a usage and attitudes product or a segmentation product? It turns out they’re about – you say market sizes, the same opportunity size, similar amounts of demand for both of these products, but one – there’s someone on my team who has expertise in building before and one doesn’t. And those are my decision points that we bring in. Or I could say it fits into my longer-term vision of tying together usage and attitudes with segmentation, but I think that – and I’m not the philological process one versus the other. And that’s where the connecting of business problems to research insights, the translation I think still – and recommendations still need team and intervention.

[00:18:08]

Jamin Brazil: Going through the process, what did you discover that you think other market researchers or research companies can learn from? Any key takeaways?

[00:18:17]

Priyanka Carr: I think some of it was how bad our own intuitions are about things as well. So going through the rebranding process as well our CEO had some favorite names like Bow Weather and Fire Clay for the names. Now you might have a reaction to them but he was really taken by Bow Weather.

[00:18:38]

Jamin Brazil: I was too. That sounds like a great name.

[00:18:40]

Priyanka Carr: They didn’t test well at all. That is why we decided not to do it and I think that’s the power of data, of we can be experts in the intuition that we have and things that resonate with us. We’re not perfectly representative of the customers that we want to sell to. So that’s why it’s important to get data. The second thing is just the importance of tracking and building a baseline as well. So one of the things that surprised me was our aided awareness on Momentive wasn’t zero. It was above zero percent on aided awareness. We tracked it pre-launch of the brand as well. And we got a couple months of tracking information in before we launched the brand because that sets a baseline for us to then say oh, was our launch successful, did our advertising have a positive impact on brand recognition and reach, etc. And we could have said that 14 percent awareness number was all driven by launch activities, but we needed the baseline. So it makes me a big believer in the importance of tracking things over time and longitudinally. That was a big learning for me. And [INAUDIBLE] is every year it gets easier and easier to reach participants and reach respondents and with the technology you can ask questions really quickly. So we were getting data back in less than a day to guide our decisions and can move from stage to stage of the process very, very quickly because while 14 months sounds like a long journey, rebranding a public company with a very well-known brand is – that is actually just a blink of an eye and going from 1,000 names to one over a 14-month period we went through a lot of tests but we were getting data back in less than a day. So it’s available for us.

[00:20:29]

Jamin Brazil: One of the things that I pick up on there is the role that culture played inside of the process. And often times it absolutely used to be the case that if the CEO had a significant or strong point of view then that was basically a decision that was made. But when you’re a customer-driven company that just – the customer is the one who sits in that seat and the data really helps guide those decisions.

[00:20:52]

Priyanka Carr: Absolutely. I’m glad we’re not Bow Weather. It doesn’t fit on a t-shirt.

[00:20:57]

Jamin Brazil: All right, fine. Anyway. So last question. What is your personal motto?

[00:21:04]

Priyanka Carr: Always be learning. I think that it gives me the greatest personal motivation. You have so many opportunities to learn from a new team member that has started, from your customers, from other employees. I’m a mother to a very young toddler and he teaches me every day as well. So it gives me the greatest joy to be learning and growing and that’s what I seek in every moment is what did we learn today? What have we learned this hour? And I learned a ton talking to you and that’s been a pleasure.

[00:21:38]

Jamin Brazil: My guest today has been Priyanka Carr, General Manager of Market Research and Insights at Momentive. Priyanka, thank you very much for being on the show.

[00:21:47]

Priyanka Carr: Thank you so much for having me.

[00:21:49]

Jamin Brazil: Everyone else, please take time, screen capture, do the stuff that you do, share it on social media, tag me. I will send you a t-shirt. Have a great rest of your day.