Information Age published an article today saying that market research has failed in its mission to help brands understand markets and customer segments. Todd Lebo, CEO of Ascend2, agrees — to an extent.
Lebo feels that marketers can benefit from quick, accessible research that can also be used for strategic purposes. And that’s what he feels his firm Ascend2 offers.
Having reported on results from several Ascend2 surveys, MediaPost decided to talk to Lebo about these topics and others.
Ascend2 was founded eight years ago, and puts out 40 to 50 surveys per year with a full-time three-person team and outside contractors.
Lebo led the marketing, content, research, event and business development teams at MarketingSherpa, and also has a publishing background.
MediaPost: What is the state of market research these days?
Todd Lebo: It’s a great way to engage audiences. But it’s also very expensive. If you go to a Gartner or Forrester, they won’t talk to you for under $75,000. Our thought was to create a more economical way to do research.
MP: What do you do that’s different?
Lebo: We’re very systematic in how we do things so that a professional can quickly digest it, and hopefully develop some action from it.
Sometimes research is too lofty and complicated. We strive to make research practical and actionable. The Ascend2 process is called research-based marketing and is a process that helps
companies with specific marketing and sales initiatives.
MP: Do you agree with the Information Age article that marketers are failing to leverage their research?
Lebo: I would agree with the general argument that market-research techniques need to adapt to the new age.
Like all marketing, research needs to be timely and targeted.
One of the biggest problems with research is when companies limit how they use it. One research study can be sliced and diced into many uses. Start with a report but there is so much more: blog posts, guest blog posts, videos, webinars, podcasts, events, data for press releases, SEO, backlinks, media outreach, infographics, etc.
MP: What are companies using research for?
Lebo: We have clients that use their research for traditional demand generation, where they have a gated landing page.
A lot of companies use research as part of a product launch: they research the value proposition of a new widget and validate the benefits as opposed to saying we think everybody wants this new widget. A lot are using research for thought leadership content.
We did some research on the top attributes of thought leadership and found that content has to be educational, timely and current, targeted and original and unique. Research does all those things.
MP: Does email play a role in your research?
Lebo: Email is still our number one source of gathering participants for our surveys, and in general, from our research, we see that email is still thriving.
MP: What do you use for a list?
Lebo: We’ve built our own email list of about 50,000 marketers that we use for our monthly research, and we will supplement that with a couple of survey panels. With a commissioned report, it depends on the topic and how targeted they want the list — for example, do they want a specific company size?
MP: Is there anything new at Ascend2?
Lebo: Yes, we just introduced a product we call ‘Pulse Surveys’ which allows for businesses to customize several smaller surveys, just a few questions each, and parse them out over time. It turns out there is a lot of demand for this as it allows for adapting content in real-time.
MP: Based on your research, what do you see happening in marketing right now?
Lebo: It’s a lot for marketers to keep up with. There are so many different tactics available to them that one of things I see is lack of an overall strategy.
Marketers are using a lot of tactics -- content, email, social media -- but having struggles in areas of what’s the overall strategy of how these things come together.
For example, do they have the technology to give the proper attributions of a campaign so they can see where to best spend their marketing dollars?
Oddly, accuracy didn't get a mention. There is a big difference between data and research.
There is an old axiom about research, that it is like a three-legged stool. The three legs are accuracy, speed and cost. You can't have all three. If you want the results to be approximate then it can be fast and cheap. If you want precision it will cost more and take longer.
John, I agree but we have to consider the purpose of the research as well. Many of the studies that we see reported on in the trade press and various media/advertising forums are what I refer to as propaganda studies designed to obtain answers that are favorable to the sponsor of the study and the basic sales pitch that is being made. The smarter manipulators try to disguise their purpose but in most of these studies the desired outcome is built into the questionning and sampling design---accuracy is the last thing that is wanted.