Mark Doherty

Recent Posts

It's Not the Technology. . .It's Us

Posted by Mark Doherty

Wed, Oct 28, 2015

technology, human problem, cmb, data integrationWe’ve come a long way, baby. . .

In the past three decades, the exponential growth in technology’s capabilities have given us the power to integrate multiple sources, predict behaviors, and deliver insights at a speed we only dreamt of when I was starting out. CMB Chairman and co-founder, Dr. John Martin, was an early cheerleader of the value of using multiple methods and multiple sources, so the promise of bringing disparate data sources into a unified view of customers and the marketplace is this researcher’s dream come true. 

While integrating data to help make smarter decisions has always been a best practice, it is the advances in technology that have allowed for an even greater and easier integration. Below are some recent examples we’ve implemented at CMB:

  • In segmentation studies, we include needs/attitude-based survey data, internal CRM behaviors, and third-party appended data into the modeling to create more useful segments. Our clients have found that our perceptual data is a necessary complement to their internal data because it helps explain the “why’s” to the “what’s” that the internal behavioral/demographic data tell them.
  • For our brand tracking clients, we often combine web analytics (e.g., Google search data, social media sentiment analysis, client’s web traffic statistics) and internal data (e.g., inquiries, loyalty applications) with our tracking results to help tell a much more nuanced story of the brand’s progress. Additionally, we use dashboards to tie that data together in one place, providing a real-time view of the brand.
  • Our customer experience clients now provide us with internal data from call center reports (detailing the types of complaints received) and internal performance metrics to complement our satisfaction tracking. 

. . .but we’ve got a ways to go.

While many organizations are leveraging technology to integrate data for specific decision areas, I see a number of stumbling blocks. Many companies are still failing to develop an enterprise-wide, unified view of the marketplace—and the barriers often have little to do with the data or tech themselves: 

  • Organizational siloes make it very challenging for different functional areas to come together and create a common platform for this type of unified view. 
  • Moreover, the politics of who owns what—and more importantly, who pays for what—oftentimes means efforts like this never get off the ground.  

So, while it seems like technology is helping make all sorts of different data “play together,” we as humans haven’t mastered the same challenge! 

How do organizations overcome these challenges to take advantage of this possibility? Like most challenges, the solution starts with senior leadership. If the C-suite makes it a priority for the organization to become customer-centric and stresses that data is a big part of getting there, that goes far to pave the way for the different personalities and siloes to come together. Starting small is another way to tackle this problem. Look for opportunities in which teams can collaborate, even if it’s something as simple as looking at subsequent purchase behaviors from customers six months after they complete a satisfaction questionnaire in order to develop/refine the predictive power of your customer experience tracking. Starting small can create a more positive beginning to the partnership, building the trust and communication necessary to attack the bigger challenges down the road.

Mark is a Vice President at CMB, and while he recognizes that technology has absolutely transformed all aspects of his professional and personal life, he sees meaning in the fact that he prefers his music playlists generated by humans, not algorithms. Long live the DJ!

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Topics: Consumer Insights, B2B, Data Integration

Does Speed Kill (Insights)?

Posted by Mark Doherty

Tue, Mar 25, 2014

Speed and CMBWill big data destroy primary research? I’ve read dozens (hundreds?) of articles that argue both sides, but despite a lot of speculation, I see very little attention paid to what may be the real killer of a lot of primary research: the “need for speed.” The increasing velocity of business (compressed product development cycles, social media and the desire for real-time marketing) often means not having the 6-10 weeks a typical quantitative research project needs. For many, the availability of big data is seen as “good enough” given the time constraints. So big data may be an accomplice, but tightened timelines are what researchers really need to address.

It’s the research vendors who don’t specialize in more strategic research I see hit the hardest by this reality. Big data is already eating into their more basic projects—answering the “who,” “what,” and “where” questions. At least for now, clients are more comfortable with (or at least tolerant of) longer timeframes for the complex, strategic work that CMB focuses on. The good news for us and for our clients is that so many of those projects benefit greatly from primary and big data playing together. In our Segmentation work, for example, our modeling usually integrates third party data, our clients’ CRM data, and the need/preference/attitude-based data we get from primary research. The combination of these data sources nearly always results in a much more robust—and actionable—Segmentation for our clients. 

But the truth is we understand our clients are still looking for us to help them make decisions faster. Here are a few of the timesaving strategies we use to address this reality:

  • For starters, we work with our clients to dig into the specifics of their timing needs. And for many projects, they don’t need a formal report to help inform their decisions—they just need to know the “answers” to guide their decisions. So we will hold “data parties” (they sound fun, don’t they? :)) where we all roll up our sleeves to review what the data is telling us and more quickly get to the answer together. We can then write up a focused summary before we put together the formal report.

  • We’ve recently invested quite a bit of money in a technology solution that helps us move from questionnaire programming through to clean data (and even the inevitable PowerPoint slides) more quickly than we have in the past. This streamlined our processes and helps get us more quickly to those data parties.

  • We also make sure we do a great job in delivering compelling and easy-to-understand deliverables that are “ready to use,” and don’t require lots of time for our clients to redo anything for their own internal use. 

So is the need for speed going to go away? Not a chance. Our clients face more and more pressure to get insights and results faster and we need to keep up. And although we’ll always keep looking for ways to leverage data and people to get our clients the insights they need, we’ll never do it at the cost of meaningful decision-focused insights.

Mark is a Vice President at CMB. He can't help but note that despite the between the increasingly fast speed of business he writes about and the increasingly slow speed with which WIRehe competes on the basketball and tennis courts. 

In Boston tomorrow? Join the women of CMB as we host a WIRe networking event at the Globe Bar & Café from 6 to 8pm. Register here.

Topics: Big Data, Consumer Insights

Saying I Do to a New Client Relationship

Posted by Mark Doherty

Thu, Feb 14, 2013


I’ll never forget the day I proposed. Of course I was nervous, but it felt like it was meant to be.  Three months ago I proposed a brand health tracking project to a new client, and they said yes. On this Valentine’s Day I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the things that matter as you begin work with a new research partner, and the surprising parallels between client and personal relationships.  As someone who has been happily married for 17 years, it’s fun for me to look back and remember the early days of the marriage!  

1.       Take the time to really get to know your partner

Just as you would (I hope) spend time early on getting to know your significant other—their values, friends, and family, it’s critical to understand your research partners’ organizational culture. For this relationship, because we took the time to ask, we learned that our client has a very egalitarian style—soliciting and accepting input from a wide range of people.  We framed the planning and design stages with that cooperative culture in mind. Our approach would be very different in a “top down” kind of organization.

2.       Don’t be afraid to challenge your partner

Of course we want to please our partners—our significant others or our clients. But growth doesn’t come for any of us if we’re not willing to get out of our comfort zones. This is true in client relationships as well as dating or marriage. We know one of the main reasons we have such long standing relationships with our clients is our experience and willingness to challenge the status quo when we know a project or process can be improved.  One of the things our client values is our “appropriate” challenges to how they do things.  We’ve taken over an existing brand tracker, so there are inevitable trade-offs about changing things to better reflect the current world and keeping the ability to track results over time.  We told our client that we would act as if we were building the tracker from scratch and work with her to strike the right balance between usefulness and comparability.  The fact that our client not only was comfortable with this, but encouraged more of it through the planning and design phases was a great early sign that they're “our kind” of partner!

3.       Make regular communication part of the process

Communication is a topic in every relationship book ever written (look it up—OK don’t) and of course it seems obvious, but it’s just as important in your client relationships. But good communication is not a download of every idea you’ve had in excruciating detail, instead it’s about learning to say what you mean in a way that your client can use and understand. Here’s what works for this client (and many of our other clients as well):   

  • Regularly scheduled weekly calls during the planning and design stage;

  • A written weekly update that includes all work completed to date, a to do list with specific assignments and due dates, and an updated overall project schedule. 

Consistently checking in with your partner means you can catch problems before they start, and it keeps everyone on the same page.  

4.       When you have a conflict…and you will, talk it out

Just like in dating or marriage, you’re sure to hit a speed bump or two in your working relationship; it’s how you handle it that counts. When we originally proposed to our client we’d introduced one of our senior project managers as the lead manager on the project. Soon after, that manager was promoted to a different position so we had to shift the team around after we won; it’s rare but it happens. Our contact let me know—by phone, which was so much better than email—she was concerned about these changes right away; luckily we were able to clarify that we had an even more experienced team assigned.  Lesson: don’t let worries fester, deal with them directly and make yourself open to hearing and addressing your client’s concerns.

Finally, yes, relationships are hard (even imaginary relationships are tough, according to recent news reports!)—they take real work and nurturing to grow. But there are few things as satisfying as a true partnership.  

Mark is VP of our Retail practice. We suspect this blog isn't his lovely wife's Valentine's Day present.

Love is in the air, learn how we help track their brand health.

Topics: Consumer Insights