Perhaps you saw our April newsletter, which we dedicated to the insights we gained from our recent attendance at a strategic planning conference in Gettysburg.
We were so interested in the parallels we saw between military intelligence and market research that we are presenting a seminar on this topic at The Market Research Event on Monday, November 12, 2012. Entitled, “What The Battle of Gettysburg Can Teach Market Researchers about Strategy”, we will be leading a discussion for a limited group of leaders about:
What is strategy and how does it shape the way researchers address key business issues?
How can a better understanding of strategy lead to more insightful research results?
In what ways can following successful military strategies ensure greater successes on the field of battle for the hearts and minds of customers?
If you’re treating your various market research projects as separate, stand-alone entities, you’re overlooking much of the benefit lying dormant in the information itself.
A recent visit to a vineyard in Italy helped us understand the importance of taking a broader, more long-term view of these projects.
Julie Brown President
Mark Palmerino Executive Vice President
I Heard It Through The Grapevine
My husband Dan and I just returned from a fabulous vacation in Italy. We spent two weeks in Rome and Tuscany, taking in the sights, eating terrific food and, of course, sampling the local spirits. Dan writes for a national beer publication and in addition to stopping in on several up-and-coming Italian breweries, we also visited a number of vineyards.
One of the highlights was a private tour of the vineyards at Borgo Santinovo’s farm, located about an hour south of Florence. Here we learned about the various methods used in producing wine and, in particular, the Vin Santo style of sweet, delicious dessert wines.
The Vin Santo wines at the farm go through an elaborate process from harvest to final production, one that involves letting the grapes dry on straw mats (sometimes for months), crushing them manually, and then letting them age for several years in wooden barrels that stretch from floor to ceiling.
It’s a painstaking process – one that requires a great deal of grapes and a great deal of patience to produce the desired outcome. But one sip and I was grateful for the extra effort!
Believe it or not, sampling the Vin Santo got me thinking about market research (I may have had more than just a sip). In particular, I was reminded of the market research we do that also involves more work up front in an effort to yield sweeter, more delicious (i.e., useful) results down the road.
Consider this. Your organization may field 20 or 30 qualitative research projects in a given year, each focused on its own set of objectives. In each case, you do the research, you write the report, you make the final presentation and you file away the results on a shelf somewhere.
Hopefully, these projects yield important insights that can be put to good use by your organization. But in treating them as separate entities, you’re leaving much of the benefit still sitting “in the grapes.”
What if, instead, you coded the results from each of these qualitative projects and housed them together in one easily searchable database? Now, not only could you retrieve the findings more easily months or years into the future, you’d be able to compare and contrast results across studies as the world evolves and your need for information changes.
For example, let’s say that in the mid-2000s you fielded a number of focus group and other qualitative studies regarding consumer interest and knowledge on the topic of life insurance. In addition, you’ve been soliciting and responding to comments and queries on your corporate website, blogs and call centers.
Suddenly, 2008 arrives and the financial meltdown occurs, changing the way consumers view all things financial.
If you’ve been coding and warehousing the transcripts from these ongoing studies and customer exchanges in a way that’s flexible and easily accessible, you could go back, review financial-related comments and see how consumer views have changed over time due to the meltdown … even though this important question was not part of the earlier studies or exchanges.
The point is, you can’t anticipate now everything you’ll want to know in the future – there are too many unforeseen twists and turns ahead in your organization, your customer base and the world at large. If, however, you maintain easy access to the original data – the grapes, if you will – you can mine it for insights (that valuable Vin Santo) later on.
Here’s what it takes…
Intelligent Coding. You can have all the customer feedback in the world, but if you don’t code it well, you’ll never be able to extract it when you need it. Qualitative exchanges in particular, the kind generated by one-on-one interviews, requests for advice and information, and in focus groups, are easily buried in transcripts and video footage.
Many of our clients [Warning: Self-serving reference ahead] leverage our proprietary tools and techniques to code these qualitative exchanges during the research collection phase. As with the Vin Santo grapes, this bit of extra effort up front leads to extra value down the road.
Robust Warehousing. Clearly, a report in a binder on a shelf is the wrong way to warehouse research data. But the right way involves more than just storing the results in digital form. In addition, you want to think about storage parameters – the things you’ll likely want to key on when you go back to the data later on.
This may include things such as gathering basic demographic information from participants or attributing comments to specific individuals when coding transcripts and video footage. Because while gender and age, for example, may have no bearing on today’s project, if five years from now you want to look at how the views of 45-55 year-old-women have changed, you’ll need to make sure you’ve stored this information to begin with.
A Broad View. Whether it’s an ad-hoc idea that you want to investigate or a more global look at your data that is done regularly and systematically, you want to continually consider ways to drive insights through the results you’ve already got on hand.
And while individual studies yield important insights within the context of their focus, the higher, broader view over time and across these studies can be equally useful.
Here’s the Twist. My tour of the Borgo Santinovo farm helped me understand the variety of ways in which the same vineyard of grapes can be used to achieve different results, provided enough care and patience is applied up front.
Likewise, when you conduct your research with the intention of creating a storehouse of information that grows over time, one that steadily increases in value, and is available to be sliced and diced as the need arises, you’ll also reap more benefit from the asset you are creating. Ciao!
Mixology (Putting Research into Practice)
As explained above, intelligent coding is fundamental to the process of extracting meaningful insights across projects and over time. Here are three things to think about when establishing a coding process within your organization:
Do some thinking up front about the kind of reports and topic areas you anticipate.
Much of what you’ll eventually want to know can’t be determined yet. That said, your past experience and assumptions about the future are often enough to put together a preliminary “coding plan.”
Begin by listing out the ideas that you see in conversational interviews; use them as a guideline for uncovering patterns of thoughts and trends. In addition, take a look at the products and services you offer (or plan to offer) and think about the bigger insights you’d like to have relative to these.
Treat your coding plan as a living document.
As new information becomes available and your thoughts evolve, you will likely add, drop or combine ideas over time. Health care reform, for example, was not a topic much talked about five years ago – today it’s front and center for many businesses, and especially, in the insurance industry.
Use a tool that allows for the complete coding of ideas.
The effective coding of qualitative exchanges involves more than just key word tagging and an Excel spreadsheet. Overly simplistic approaches can lead to extreme variation in classifications depending on whomever is doing the coding, as well as information retrieval that is necessarily based on words as opposed to complete thoughts. Both of these aspects can make intelligent data retrieval difficult.
Look for approaches/tools that emphasize both consistency and depth in the way information is categorized.
The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. (CSR) is a research firm. The “Twist” to what we offer is this: We combine open-ended questioning with our proprietary technology to create quantifiable data. As a result our clients gain more actionable and valuable insights from their research efforts.
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