Ideas and thoughts about market research fieldwork in the UK.
Years ago, when Indiefield started out, all we wanted to do was win huge projects worth millions and be a big hit. Then, a decade later, a strange thing happened. What happened? In short, recommendations. Our clients suggested to their friends in the business and their colleagues in the office that they call Indiefield whenever they need recruitment and fieldwork. People took the suggestion, agreed wholeheartedly, and subsequently recommended their friends and colleagues. More sales, more recommendations, and the positive feedback loop kicked in. And we realised that real success relies on a long tail. It relies on people talking to people and word of mouth and great fieldwork and recruitment for big and broad clients.
When faced with facts and proof we expect a rational person to make an intelligent decision on what is better. But that does not always happen. People make decisions based on hope, fear, what others appear to be doing, and what they believe has worked in the past. Viral stories and shocking testimonies can trump detailed data. We see this with the anti-vax movement. Ultimately they believe that vaccines do not really work and have hurt more people than helped. There is no point having endless fact-based discussions. No amount of data will change their mind because "it's all fake and it all comes from big pharma". What's needed is a series of stories and testimonials from those in the group who have changed their minds. These mind changing stories need to be shouted. The ripple effect will begin. Over time more will change their minds. It may take a while but it will happen. The proof of it is that these days it's very hard to find people that still believe the earth is flat.
Most people think that you are showing your true colours when you are stressed and striving to meet a deadline, dealing with a serious problem at work, doing something that makes your question your moral code, suddenly find yourself in charge and have a chance to throw your weight around, get caught when you thought no-one could see you, get a chance to punish someone who has harmed you, or are completely crushed by your problems. This is when you need to tell your story. This is when people need to hear the truth about you.
I like doing what I am asked. To some people that means doing only the minimum requirement. But what it really means is becoming engaged in a good cause. Whenever I am asked to do something, I rarely need step by step instructions because I don't just want to do the job, I want to do it right and perfectly. It's all about involving people, asking questions, making recommendations, offering to help, and pitching ideas. Getting things done right means being proactive and not waiting for life to come to you. It means being on the offensive, not the defensive. Being active, not passive. Most of the time it means innovating inside the box not necessarily thinking outside it.
Apparently one of the most important quotes in business management is "if you can't measure it, you can't improve it". Which made me think about what we measure and why. Does something become important because it is measured or do we measure it because it is important? Does counting something make it count?
The thing that makes you popular might be the thing that stops you succeeding. When you were in school there would have been someone who was always messing around and making people laugh. He may have been the popular class clown but that definitely got in the way of his education. It's the same when you first meet someone. You can act a certain way and be fun and happy and if it is a client you might even get a meeting out of it. But will you get the work? There are so many ways to be popular. Or even more popular. But is popular what you are after?
Most people do not believe they have the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do. At the same time, nearly everyone thinks they can correct, comment on, or in some cases totally pull apart! That's why millions of tweets every day are re-tweets or replies - because it is easier to respond than it is to start. This is not because people do not want to start. It is because most people believe that they are more useful if they help an initiative rather than create one themselves. The world needs more people that will start things.
Don't you just hate it when you are in a long queue in your car and another driver steams past you and at the last moment cuts in at the front? Of course, you could do what they do, and push in. There is no reason for your to patiently wait. Or maybe you are the selfish one, who doesn't think about other drivers. This is completely different from the woman who sees people patiently queuing to enter a building through a single door. She walks past everyone and opens the second door. Now, with two doors open, the queue is finally moving. She definitely earned her place at the front of that queue! Too often, we are led to believe that taking the initiative combined with right minded thinking and trashing the status quo is like queue jumping. Nothing but a selfish act. But sometimes it is opening a second door for everyone to walk through.
Envision what you want to accomplish in your mind's eye. Then write it down. This a critical step because it is laying the framework to making your goal real. Once it is written down, put it somewhere easily seen. Make sure your goal is in your line of sight and in your mind every single day. Develop your plan. This is not your complete plan or even your final plan. This is just your beginning plan. Chances are your plan will change, re-route and evolve. That's fine because you will evolve too.
The Journal of Media Psychology found that people watch scary films for three main reasons: tension, relevance, and unrealism. Those who like horror due to its "unrealism" enjoy it because they know for a fact that it is all fake anyway. For them, it is just pure entertainment and fun. In reality enjoyment and fear do not go together. You cannot get "in the zone" and do your best work when you are operating through fear. Everything great that has ever been invented or developed was done so by someone who was really enjoying it. By someone who was fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Someone who was in the zone and completely connected. That doesn't happen when you are fearful.
(This isn't about my hair!) It is possible to be straight and curly at the same time. Straight is the tough thing to improve once the processes are in place. After all it is hard to get straighter than straight. Good processes keep the business running smoothly, create order that is valued, but improving them gets more difficult as well. Trying to make the organised more organised is a pain in the proverbial. But within your work you can find something liberating - something wild even! You can create productive chaos, you can interrupt, re-create, produce, invent, and redefine. There you go, now everything is bouncy and curly. And you just made the straight ruler even straighter.
Tell people exactly what you are doing and make sure they know it will happen. "I've got this and I'm on it" "You will have it today" No-one wants an automated reply that says "up to 5 working days". Clients want to know that you care more about their projects than that.
What a poetic phrase! It literally means that you have spent or lost all your money and are broken. And for a company to "go bust" it must be "declared insolvent". Not saying it or announcing it or admitting it but DECLARING IT! All the headlines for business look so awful during the Covid-19 crisis. Companies collapsing into administration; businesses closing their doors; dreams broken into tiny pieces. Maybe there is another side to all this. Maybe people are sick of fighting and maybe declaring is actually a relief. Bankruptcy is never fun. I just hope that for everyone fighting, those that do declare discover a future better than they ever imagined.
...people that do fieldwork. It does not matter what the subject is. It could be with high net worth individuals regarding their future car buying intentions. Or low-income families about how they manage their household budget. What matters, what makes it fieldwork, is that the person who delivers it engaged the respondent, overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt, and did an interview worth doing. Something good. Something human. Something that will make the world a better place.
You would probably be shocked at the amount of planning and preparation that goes on behind the scenes to make the perfect market research event. Beyond making a list (and checking it twice) it means recruiting respondents, liaising with the venue, lighting, installations, filming, deliveries, catering - depending on the research this list can seem never ending. And you need to have an eye on every single detail so that all the elements are perfect. But above all else you need to create an environment where a respondent can make a powerful exchange with a client. No matter how large the project is, it needs to be intimate enough to generate conversations that matter.
Otherwise why plan at all? And be sure to write down your plans and make them known. Pick out a team of people that can help you deliver the plan. Shake off people that think your plan is stupid. They will not support your plan so you may as well ignore them. You know that if you make a big plan the chances are something will happen. Are you doubting that you can do any of what you do? Good. Then make the big plan.
If, in the work you do, there are people out there that cost less than you and are offering a product or service that is a reasonable comparison for your work then you are probably not going to get the work you want because you are, on balance, not worth it. And then you end up having to chase the cheaper prices which we all know is ultimately a race to the bottom. So how about instead of being cheaper you become incomparable, crucial, and invaluable? Obviously that's the troubled track to take because it means you have to become really, really good at what you do, you must totally specialise, be a risk taker, create brilliant art, deliver the science, make sure that everything you do leaves a positive impact on everyone you touch. It is either that or be cheap. I think I prefer the troubled track.
What do we do with the people we love the most? We share. We share our lives, we share our thoughts, we share our time, we even share our food and drink! So here is a treat that I am sharing with you. If you haven't read it yet and are looking for a good book to get stuck into I strongly suggest you get a copy of Humankind - A Hopeful History by the Dutch historian by Rutger Bregman. It is a warm hearted and much needed optimistic read, building on the "radical" view that most of us are decent and friendly creatures. I don't buy into all of Bregman's arguments but I do buy into his belief that human kindness lights the path to a brighter future. I highly recommend it!
I have been thinking about how a garden is like a life. You have a garden and it is yours to tend and garden and weed and live with. You can plant bad thoughts or a sow good sense of humour. And it is up to you to weed areas and to douse parts of your plot with Miracle Grow. Feel free to fertilise and nurture the thoughts and feelings that you want to grow in your garden. It is probably worth putting up a decent fence, to protect your garden, but I would not advise putting up a wall. Get a gate and decide who can come into your garden. Watching out for invasive species – make sure you keep the grass cut, the weeds at bay, and pick up any dog poop if you have a dog, so that you get the garden you want. Refuse to accept that a good garden is an accident of birth or an unchangeable constant.
Some prize winners keep playing the lottery, even after they have won the jackpot. So that means they are not playing for the win, because they have already won millions. So why are they playing? We all know that in terms of practical mathematics, our chances of winning the lottery is so vanishingly small it is as if, from an investment point of view, there are no winners at all. So that means that we should play the game for the thrill of playing it, for the benefits of playing it to a conclusion, not because we think we have any shot of winning the grand prize, right? Now let us apply that thinking to our everyday lives. Let us focus on what it means to enjoy the thrill of doing the market research fieldwork we get to do every day and taking each project through to its perfect conclusion.
There are a number of Indiefield staff who have been here more or less since we founded the company over 20 years ago. As time goes by you do not just come to trust valued colleagues like these, they also earn your respect. Once you come to know someone's sensibilities and ambitions, you naturally start to see the world through their eyes and to support their motives and tactics. Once you have seen how they handle market research fieldwork when under pressure and how they take care of business in quieter moments, you get a true sense of what they believe in. In a world of quick quantitative projects and short qualitative engagements, this sort of relationship is utterly priceless. It is so easy to start relationships that have the potential to turn into ones exactly like these. But it remains as hard as it has ever been to make them last.
A study has shown that placebos work even when the patient is told that the drug they are taking has no 'real' medicine in it. Yes, you read that correctly. We know that the placebo effect is real. If we believe we are going to get better, perform better, recruit the focus group, deliver the fieldwork etc., we do. So then why do known placebos work? Because of the process. The steps we go through to remember to take them, then to actually take them, then to stick to the dosing. Over time, we do not think about the placebo itself, we tell ourselves (a lot) that we are taking significant action. It is the same with market research fieldwork. Sometimes it looks like the odds are stacked against us. But we stick to the process and grind through the steps, over and over again. And you know what? We get better.
Market research fieldwork for what? How do we know what the client is ultimately aiming for? It starts with understanding the use case. And before we can do that, we need to have all the information from our client to work out what would delight them. At that point, the only question is, "does this market research fieldwork support the use case we agreed on?" Too often, we are in such a hurry to show off our recruiting and interviewing skills that we forget to address the notion of what we do it for, and what the use case is.
You do not need more time to deliver that market research project. You just need to decide who you will work with and what the fieldwork process will look like. That means being accountable for the project which means making good decisions (with a sense of urgency) about who is going to conduct your fieldwork and recruitment. Always look for the company that will step up and take responsibility so that the things you need get delivered.
Being described as "a self-sufficient" appears to be a worthy goal, but is it really possible if you want to actually get anything done? In market research fieldwork all our productivity, leverage and insight comes from being part of something, not apart from it. We rely on respondents to take part in our research, on our panelists to engage, on our recruiters and interviewers to interrupt. The goal now is to work out who and what our dependencies will be so that our clients can depend on us.
There has always been a bright light around the craftsperson. Someone who takes real care and produces work for the ages. Everyone else might be a hack, or a guru, but a craftsperson was someone we could respect. Perhaps we are entering a new age of craftsmanship. A craftsperson might be particularly talented in the way he or she delivers market research projects. Just because it is not in a craft fair doesn't mean it didn't demand craft.
What do most businesses do with their best clients? If you define "best client" as the client who pays you the most, then you take their money. But what if you define "best client" as the person who brings you new clients through frequent referrals? That client, I think, is worth far more than what any one transaction can bring. In fact, if you think of that client as your best advertisement instead, it changes everything.
One of the things that we always think about is how our role as market research project managers is to "protect the work". To make sure that our clients get the best respondents. To make sure that our clients meet their deadlines. To make sure that our clients can deliver great market research. Our job is to keep the project moving and the choices open so that our client can do his or her work. We protect the project so that our clients can deliver it.