Explore Awards Panel on Innovation

by Bill Weylock, Brand3Sixty….

Deb Hartman and Sandra Kelly from 3M told us how they decided to bring their research in house…

Before the session when I was setting up my blogger table, I told Sandra that it seemed as if another title for her presentation (“Turning Research Outside In: Designing a Cost-saving Internal Survey Research Company”) could be “Eat dirt and die, research suppliers!”

She denies this, you will probably be happy to hear. 3M is doing at least as much research through outside resources. What they are doing is providing cost-effective (read very very low cost) internal resource resources to marketers who had been drifting into inept use of Survey Monkey and other online survey resources.

They are now able to provide good research for 75% of the cost of using external suppliers.

Technonotes: Their group hires contract employees from the pool of recent college graduates. Their focus is on quant, with a growing demand for qualitative. They conduct online surveys including conjoint and advanced segmentations. Use Sawtooth and Max-Diff. They work cross-culturally making use of local teams for translations in both directions.

The most interesting part of the presentation for me harks back to one of our major focal points in the Summer 2010 Greenbook Research Industry Trends (did I mention I’m doing this blogging at the TMRE on behalf of Greenbook, substituting for Lenny Murphy who is expecting his new son at any moment?). Following up on some findings that had bubbled up in the 2009 study, we had a special section on the challenges of non-research managers using the internet to conduct their own studies.

Some reported they did not have the problem or felt they had it managed. Those who did have the problem, however, really had had it.

These 3Mers validated all of these concerns strongly and brilliantly. They flashed us some examples of questions they had intercepted from manager-generated online surveys: almost impossible to follow, let alone answer. Don’t know whether it was an exaggeration, but it didn’t sound like one… They introduced non-branded surveys into their mix, which had included surveys identified as from 3M probing awareness of their brand.

They still have rogue surveys, but they have done mighty and effective combat to raise the quality of 3M research within the constraints imposed by the economy.

They do still use outside suppliers for global studies, CATI, and qualitative. Suppliers rejoice.

Okay, I just asked (after Deb’s great presentation of their remarkable accomplishments for astonishingly low costs)…

I asked what produced an environment in which managers who need research were unable to get the budget resources to use professional research suppliers in the first place. I was worried that research dollars had dried up due to the economy, which is the sad trend we have been lamenting for lo these many years.

The news is a little better than that. We are talking about managers who never had marketing research budgets in an organization that devotes massive resources to R&D and very little relatively to marketing research. Survey Monkey enables these folks to do research that never before got done. That doesn’t hurt quite so badly, right?

3M deserves a solid round of hearty applause for helping to diminish the volume of screamingly inept surveys and for saving their managers from their unreliable but beautifully charted findings. Using young contract employees, investing in full suites of software/services from Sawtooth and Vision Critical, and heading their operation with heavy hitter researchers with internal evangelistic skills, the 3M team has been providing high volume, low cost research to managers who otherwise would have had no research or (much worse) their own research.