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3 Tips for Successful Market Research Project Management

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By now you’ve heard a variety of voices from uSamp, and hopefully learned a little bit about our culture and position within the market research industry. From debates on panel size and DIY to European Union forecasts and remote management strategies, uSamp’s has attempted to wrangle diverse perspectives and reveal our willingness to be transparent. We recognize the importance of contributing to the heated discourses that are happening in various MR forums across the web and at conferences. But at the same time, we realize that it is important to let you know how we operate. One of the key pillars to our success as a client-facing firm is our project management team and the methodology they use to put our panelists to good use. So without further adieu, let’s go behind the curtain, and find out how our PMs make uSamp tick. Norm Williams shares tips that are not only valuable to other PMs, but can be applied to client-services and consultants across the board.

by Norm Williams, Project Manager

In the world of project management, the definition of a successful project is one that is adequately completed according to clients’ specifications, and within their established timeline. Although this definition may sound simple, it is anything but straightforward. There are various nuances that go into managing a successful project. Years of market-research expertise certainly helps, but you never know what issues will come up that can throw even the most seasoned veteran for a loop.

All projects managers know there are a myriad of issues that regularly arise—which is why, communication, preparation, awareness and flexibility are key components in determining the success of a project.

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Entrepreneur Journeys: Sramana Mitra Talks Sample

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uSamp’s CEO, Matt Dusig recently shared his entrepreneurial path with  Sramana Mitra, founder of the One Million by One Million global initiative aimed at helping a million entrepreneurs to reach a million dollars each in annual revenue and beyond by 2020.

The case study can be accessed in its seven-part entirety on Sramana’s blog.

Best of Blogs: uSamp’s Farewell to 2011

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Fall 2011 marked uSamp’s foray into the market research blogosphere. The Greenbook Blog, Next Gen Market Research, Innovation Evolved, Research Access, Love Stats, Forrester, MRGA’s Social Advisory…you’ve certainly inspired and set the industry standards high! We wanted engage in the dialogue that is central to our field of work. We wanted to join in on the debates around  DIY, gamification, privacy, sample quality, and consumer insight. It has been our objective to add value to a space already a-buzz with information.

uSamp is comprised of thought-leaders both wizened MR folks, and young innovative minds. We will continue tapping the intel we have inside in hopes that we can provide a feisty debate, a helpful take-away, a peek into how we work, even just a chuckle or two. We pride ourselves on transparency, and will continue to develop our blog to foster an open, intelligent and colorful community. We hope that you have enjoyed uSamp’s perspective thus far, as we will continue ramping it up in the new year.

To close out 2011, we decide to bring back some of the greatest hits from our freshman album. Without further ado, we invite you to revisit the following posts:

As always, we encourage your feedback and live for your ideas. Thanks for a terrific 2011, and here’s to lots of discussion and insight in the new year!

Best Practices for Managing Remote Offices

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by Yanawan Saguansataya Hurlbut, VP, Client Services and Programming

As VP of Client Services and Programming, Yan is uSamp’s global management maverick, as she is responsible for 40 people across two countries and over four locations. She honed in on her adept management skills at Greenfield Online where she was tasked with developing and managing the Sample Only client service strategy with a 33 person organization across three countries. She served 10 years at Greenfield, growing from project manager to VP of the North American Sample Only product line. She continues to leverage this operational experience in her current role at uSamp where her latest endeavor is the creation of a programming and hosting team to support clients looking for a one-stop shop.

The fact that businesses operate as internationally connected networks is old news. It is impossible to function as silos in a global market. As we continue to expand and try to recruit top talent to our companies, it has become imperative to consider how we can effectively communicate across culture, and understand the job market it as it applies to our recruits. With my largest project management team overseas in Delhi, India, I have had to quickly learn how adapt my management skills to address the diverse markets that we’ve entered into.

The lessons that I have learned are particular to the local work culture, but I think that there are many practices that can apply to managers in any circumstance or country. I will elaborate on the keys to recruiting and training employees in an environment outside your realm of expertise.

Hiring

Understand the employment landscape:

We all know that research is invaluable, which is why we are in this world. Before entering a new market, it is critical to understand what makes people tick–in a professional sense. What are the qualification standards? Do workers move around or stay at their post? What drives employee satisfaction?

There is a lot of movement in the competitive Indian job market, and it is quite normal to come across a Project Manager candidate who has a three-page resume with multiple advanced certifications, and two-three year stints with an employer. Advancement, and the opportunities that enable advancement over the course of a career, is paramount versus staying static at the same company for longevity’s sake. This has made the hiring process exciting, but also daunting because of all the well-qualified candidates. Which leads to the next point,

Set clear qualifications requirements:

I know that our PMs are going to be client-facing, so we stress excellent verbal and written communication skills–a must for any multi-national company. We filter candidates by a formal interview with on-site managers, a basic skills test, and a telephone interview with an off-site manager. Once we find a suitable candidate, we prepare ourselves for a considerable wait-period, as often times employees must give 30 to 60 days of notice before they can leave a post. Preparation is the key to finding and securing the right candidate

Training

Customizing the training program to the culture:

As in any on-boarding process, it is important to find out how to best connect with your new hire.  What is his or her central motivating factor? Do they learn by watching or doing? Do they like to lead by example?

Training has been a critical and evolving process for our uSamp India team. Not just because we think it’s necessary to get everyone on the same page, but because our applicants expect it of us. Applicants judge a company’s clout by their training process, and place as much emphasis on learning as achieving. Our team places strong emphasis on formal training versus the “baptism-by-fire” approach that is a popular practice in America. Hires seek to build their resume, and look to a company that will help them enhance a particular skill set, and elevate them to be experts in their field.

As you wonder how to incorporate this into your own program, remember that training takes many forms.  The most obvious is new hire orientation of systems and processes.  Exposure to new study designs and technologies or even a new client set is invaluable experience that should not be discounted.  More obvious training opportunities include industry-level training (CASRO, MRA, etc.) or process-level training (PMP, Six Sigma, etc.).

Retaining

Fostering office culture:

Today’s workplace is a diverse place and retaining key contributors can be a daunting task. It is easy to undermine “culture” as just another industry buzzword, but it is at the heart of any company. Creating a cohesive culture is as important as any hiring or training process. At uSamp, every location has a game room with an Internet–enabled gaming system connecting all our offices. We regularly host lunches/dinners at our offices and quarterly team outings. Remember that fun, flexibility and an open attitude is key.  Good luck!

Does Size Matter…for online panels?

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by Matt Dusig, Co-Founder/CEO

uSamp is a little over three years old. To date, we’ve seen over 6.5 million people globally register and double opt-in for our research panel websites. We register about 10,000 new panelists every day, adding over 300,000 panelists to our database each month. Sounds cool, right? But does the size of the panel at 6.5 million really matter?

Most sample companies market themselves according to panel size, quality of respondent data, variety of the traffic sources and customer service excellence. I am guilty about marketing the size of our panel. We announce the size of our panels to show scale, and to impress clients. Do you blame us?

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5 Tips For Smarter Investment in Market Research Technology

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by Scott Weinberg, Director, Enterprise Hosted Technology, uSamp

Scott resides in Minneapolis, MN and joined uSamp in February 2011. Scott is active with the Market Research Association (MRA) and is the President-Elect of the MN / Upper Midwest MRA chapter. He has spent the majority of his career in the Market Research industry, starting as a project manager on the supplier side, eventually moving into turnkey project design, before spending the last several years focused on online panels and in particular emerging panel management technologies. Scott earned an M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin and is on Twitter @ScottWeinberg and LinkedIn.

Over the past 15 years in the Market Research industry, I’ve had the opportunity to work with companies to develop and implement strategies for organizing their customer feedback efforts. During this time, I’ve noticed two prevailing technology acquisition themes:

The first acquisition theme is the approach that results in a fragmented, piece-meal process that relies on a ‘blended’ supplier approach. On first blush, the blended approach seems reasonable, and financially sound. Specifically, in this scenario, different supporting technologies (i.e. survey program, reporting program, analytical application, panel management program) are each vetted and acquired independently.

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Sample Quality is a Function of Sample Pricing

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by Matt Dusig, co-founder & CEO

I recently attended a session on online panel quality at the ESOMAR Congress in Amsterdam. The discussion, led by a panel of experts, digressed from quality to privacy, and I found myself wondering why price, a critical factor that affects online panel quality, was omitted from the debate.

In my previous blog post on sample quality, I emphasized the importance of viewing sample frames as groups of real people. I also suggested that the pricing model for sample should shift from strictly cost-per-complete-based pricing to cost-per-finish pricing.. This model would allow invited respondents to always be rewarded for their time spent attempting or completing surveys.

Why am I so passionate about price point? I believe the MR industry is in danger of putting a tourniquet around the supply side of our business. Many market research companies are being continuously pressured to provide the highest quality service at lower prices. Consequently, as pricing pressure occurs, it squeezes the cost that sample suppliers can charge, and creates bidding scenarios where the lowest price wins. The challenge: Most research firms want attentive, thoughtful answers (quality sample), but many internal research teams ordering sample are rewarded for obtaining the lowest-cost sample.

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Conservative Innovation: How MR is Keeping Pace with Technology and Global Expansion

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by Ben Leet, Sales Director

Ben joined the uSamp UK team at the very beginning, and is charged with directing the UK sales team, and building out our new client relationships in Europe. Prior to joining uSamp Ben held senior positions with Decision Tree Consulting, Toluna and Ugam, the first of which saw Ben designing, conducting and delivering full service research programmes to blue chip clients for over 5 years, before joining the online panel business at Toluna in early 2008. This combination allows Ben to understand all aspects of the market research process, adding value to uSamp clients along the way. Ben is a Graduate of the Nottingham Business School in the UK with a BA (Hons) in European Business.

uSamp’s very first blog entry heralded the inauguration of uSamp UK by featuring a Q&A with European MD Gaelle Normand. Since then, our office has expanded. We serve as a reminder of uSamp’s international presence, and the global integration of the MR industry as a whole.

We may be virtually connected at all times, but this the past month has reminded us that sometimes breathing the same air as MR Thought Leaders is better than a Skype chat. On a smaller scale, uSamp gathered our global team and clients at Paramount, the top of the Centrepoint building in London for our European launch party. On a larger scale, MR professionals from near and afar assembled at the ESOMAR Congress in Amsterdam. There were several late nights across the events, but also some interesting debates and discussions with clients, colleagues, and even the odd competitor!

As you can imagine, the MR industry was a-buzz with healthy debates ranging from online panel representivity (a blog post in itself!), all the way through to innovations such as gamification, mobile research and social media monitoring.

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Sensitivity to Sample: Why Customization and Variety are Key to Sample Quality

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by Lisa Wilding-Brown, VP Panel Operations

Lisa Wilding-Brown has over a decade of experience in the market research industry. Wilding-Brown is responsible for panel development & management at uSamp — in particular publisher management/recruiting, member engagement, profiling and rewards. Before joining uSamp in 2009, Lisa served as the Panel Loyalty & Retention Manager at Harris Interactive. Wilding-Brown was instrumental in the development and management of the Harris Poll Online, one of the first online market research panels in the industry and spearheaded the development of over 40 specialty panels, which increased targeting capabilities significantly. Wilding-Brown is a graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo with a BA in both Communication & International Relations.

In a previous post, uSamp CEO, Matt Dusig wrote about sample burn and asked us to consider panelists as people. Matt’s blog entry resonated with many across the industry including yours truly. All too often, we refer to panelists as sample, but in reality these samples are our neighbors, colleagues, friends and family. As a professional who has been building and managing online research panels for over a decade, I have had a front-row seat to the many challenges of online research panel building. The demands in our space have changed dramatically over the years.

While it is more convenient and cost-effective to obtain low-incidence populations online vs. traditional methodologies such as phone, the inventory of online research opportunities has becoming increasingly difficult as a result. The proliferation of online panels coupled with the abundance of social media channels has generated a fiercely competitive and over-stimulating environment for the average online user. Throw a world recession into the mix and you have an interesting dichotomy of new growth and economic anxiety. Somewhere along the way, the countless pressures of our industry have put the squeeze on our most precious resource: the people who participate in our research.

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Build and Brand Your Own Panel

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Pulling out all the stops with PanelBuilder™

With Scott Weinberg, Director Hosted Research Technology, Scott.Weinberg@uSamp.com

As director of uSamp’s Hosted Research Technology, Scott Weinberg and his team of expert engineers focus on two platforms: PanelBuilder™ and SampleMarket™.

“PanelBuilder allows you to quickly and transparently create your own branded customer online panels for deepening client relationships with fast and efficient audience feedback,” explains Weinberg. “You can choose from a pool of respondents who are engaged and profiled to meet your most exacting standards.”

This all–encompassing approach is a true time and money saver. It is designed to efficiently field your research studies — including your specifications, criteria and brand expectations — and to manage costs in the most cost effective way possible.

When asked what sets PanelBuilder apart from other similar platforms, Weinberg replies enthusiastically, “Only PanelBuilder offers fully automated incentive fulfillment, with over 200 redemption options.” Panelists are rewarded immediately and tangibly. “If a panelist wants to ‘cash out’ – whether it’s with a PayPal payment, an Amazon.com gift card, airline miles — he or she can just hit the ‘Redeem Now’ button,” he explains. It’s instant, and no other online private label panel offers it. Read the rest of this entry »