The Actionable Futurist® Podcast

S4 Episode 1: Tom Smith CEO of GWI on the future of Market Research

February 01, 2022 The Actionable Futurist® Andrew Grill Season 4 Episode 1
The Actionable Futurist® Podcast
S4 Episode 1: Tom Smith CEO of GWI on the future of Market Research
Show Notes Transcript

To understand the future of the market research industry, my guest is Tom Smith, Founder and CEO of GWI. Having spent several years working agency side, he recognised a growing demand for global data to better understand the complex online market, coupling the world's largest ongoing study on the digital consumer with powerful analytics. GWI is now the leading provider of digital consumer insights to the global marketing industry.

My favourite section of the podcast was where Tom said

"People think data is the new oil, and we’re all sitting on this very valuable commodity. The better comparison is that data is like sand. Until you do something with the information, it lacks real value. It’s the processing it's the presentation, it’s the aggregation and millions of people’s data aggregated at scale is a highly valuable product."

Tom argues that the market research industry has utterly failed the needs of its consumers in today's global marketplace - this is a bold statement and something Tom addresses in detail in this episode.

In this episode, we look at:

  • Why Tom started GWI
  • The changing needs of the market research industry
  • How traditional market research methods have evolved
  • What problems GWI solves
  • How Ad blockers, GDPR and other regulations have changed collection methodology
  • Where AI fits into modern market research methods
  • The future of market research
  • Being an Entrepreneur


More on Tom
LinkedIn
Twitter
GWI Website

Your Host: Actionable Futurist® Andrew Grill
For more on Andrew - what he speaks about and replays of recent talks, please visit ActionableFuturist.com
follow @AndrewGrill on Twitter
or @andrew.grill on Instagram.

Intro:

Welcome to The Actionable Futurist Podcast a show all about the near term future with practical and actionable advice from a range of global experts to help you stay ahead of the curve. Every episode answers the question, what's the future on with voices and opinions that need to be heard. Your host is international keynote speaker and The Actionable Futurist Andrew Grill.

Andrew Grill:

My guest today is Tom Smith, the sole founder and CEO of GWI having spent several years working agency side, he recognised a growing demand for global data to better understand the complex online market, coupling the world's largest ongoing study on the digital consumer with powerful analytics. GWI is now the leading provider of digital consumer insights to the global marketing industry. Welcome, Tom,

Tom Smith:

thanks for having me,

Andrew Grill:

you make a very strong statement that the market research industry has utterly failed the needs of its consumers in today's global marketplace. Why do you say this?

Tom Smith:

If we consider what market research is here, here for right it's to help businesses understand their marketplace, their audiences, their customer segments, that mean that that's their core remit. If we look at the market we're operating in today, you know, it's a world of you know, I spent last 20 years in the industry. And the transformation in opportunity for businesses is profound. We live in a completely connected global marketplace where you can engage 10s, or hundreds of millions of customers from anywhere. And you can build incredibly large businesses very quickly. And that just didn't exist before. Now, think about market research, as a discipline emerged, you know, generations ago now, and was designed for a different world where, you know, markets were local distribution was local, it wasn't online, there was no internet. Media was mass media, its TV, print radio, and everything was done offline, right. So a market research in the whole hasn't changed that much. So if you want to understand your audience today, as a any sort any scale business, it could be literally anywhere on the planet. Now, if you want to research that audience and that marketplace, in a normal way of running market research, it could take months, six months could take longer. The cost just to do that could be hundreds of 1000s, if not millions. And by the time you get the answer, the whole world is transformed and moved on. So the core function of market research, which is an $80 billion industry, in the main has not changed, and it's failing the customers and the businesses that need that information.

Andrew Grill:

So what was the spark? What was the moment where you said, I just need to create this global web index?

Tom Smith:

I cut my teeth in the advertising world. And I was very fortunate, I start working as an analyst and a researcher in a advertising agency, specifically the media part of the agency back in 2001. And my job is to help very large advertisers understand their target audiences, the best audience who's the most appropriate audience to target their marketing, what's the constituents of that audience in helping them to profile and understand them, and then to develop insights that they could build a marketing strategy on and develop media plans, and it was really apparent to me on the front line, all the big advertisers were coming to me and my teams, and they were saying we want understand what our audience is doing in Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, even MySpace before that Friendster, no one else and podcasting, like we're doing now, that explosion of social media, and none of this was represented in the industry research that underpinned advertising for 5060 years. And the other critical or two other critical points is they needed very up to date data, because things were changing every day. And I think you'll remember well, the mid 2000s, is there was a new service popping up every single day, it was super exciting. It felt like an absolute revolution, which it was in what they presented with this possibility to engage customers anywhere, right content would spread around the world. It was a really unprecedented opportunity for companies to engage consumers. None of the data supported this. I couldn't answer any of the questions that customers would bring me and even really basic requirements. So I remember trying to answer questions for hotel brand, and they wanted to understand their audience, which is business travellers in about 20 different countries and how they were in engaging blogs and podcasts. This was an impossible task. It took me six months of engaging with local offices in our group, nobody had the data. I mean, it was I couldn't do the job. Right. So from this basis, I knew there was a need to understand audiences globally, specifically online, and very specifically, like how to engage with social media and emergence of consumer generated content at time. I started developing research in that role. And that led to me really seeing an opportunity. So I was building this research products, a number of years it was just to understand consumers worldwide online, and people were really picking up the information I desperately need this information. So I was, you know, taking reports, tickets, conferences, giving it to customers. And I knew this was a product I would use and many other companies needed. And that was really the spark, everything's more globally interconnected. And the need for this is just accelerated over the years,

Andrew Grill:

I wish we'd met back in 2009. Because back then I was heavily involved in social media. And I coined a phrase back then, and I said publicly a lot, and people learn wouldn't requite me that social media is the best piece of market research you never commissioned.

Tom Smith:

The great thing about our data is, you know, we survey millions of people a year, when everyone answers the same set of questions. So it's super comparable, it's very easy to use, you don't have any blank holes. And you don't know what you don't know. Right. So one of the problems is social data from a research perspective, right? To try and drive Insights is, firstly, the subset of people that are sharing their opinions. You don't know what that subset is. So you don't know how representative that data is of the wider of that audience or the market as a whole. So it's very difficult to use to drive really actionable Audience Insights. And the other side is sometimes the the audience data that gives you an understanding of those people is it's just not it's not available, or it's absent or it's not very accurate. So in a social data is fantastic for getting a quick take on you know, what's going on or for crisis comms or for outreach and influencer. But I think over the years, I think the promise that it could replace, traditional market research has not been fulfilled, from my perspective.

Andrew Grill:

Now you say that GWI thrive on disrupting the industry at the highest level. So what parts need disrupting?

Tom Smith:

There is lots of innovation, don't get me wrong, but the bulk of that industry is still operating. As if the market has not changed. You know, it's a service based business. It's still more research done offline. And online. It takes months to do anything like, you know, this is not fit for purpose, or what clients need to they need immediate answers to questions, right? So I think the areas we focused on that the wider industry should be looking at is a How quick can I collect data? And how quickly can I get the data from the consumer to my end analyst. And the quicker the short of that process, the better. And the only way to do that globally, is with technology, right? You need to automate as much as possible, you need to commit to online sampling, you need to be constantly collecting data, the automation, that data is critical. So you're talking about automating who you identify to sample, you're automating the cleaning of data, you're automating the weighting of it, you're automating the recoding. There's so many layers of process. And we're very committed to that we spent 10 years building those processes. The second part is scale. So a lot of market research is because of cost constraints often. And also finding enough people can often be very small in scale. But if you think about what the internet as we can reach very niche audiences. And you can build very large businesses on very niche subset audiences in order to find those audiences and understand them and really build a business strategy around them, you need to work with large samples that you're confident with, we've been focused on ever increasing size of sample to write to really help small customers and niche audiences. You know, another significant part for me is the platform, we make all of our data available in an online platform, you can sign up for free immediately. So the speed from question to answer is contracted, the data is immediately accessible, anyone can use it, that's how data gets used. I mean, there's 10s of billions of dollars of market research every year that is operated, run, paid, collected, presented and then sits inside or you know, sits in the cloud somewhere or maybe on a local computer, just gathering dust never to be looked at again, because it's too hard to access or requires a team of analysts data needs to be accessible, otherwise, it will not be properly integrates an organisation and it will not properly drive strategy and decision making. So it's that combination of big scale, constant collection, automation, and then the platform, the user experience, the combination of that is critical to answer the customer's needs in this fast paced global environment. And most market research is not they're not focused on on doing these things, and things need to change across the industry.

Andrew Grill:

So obviously, your business is heavily reliant on data. I want to talk about data for a moment, but in a slightly different way, and about consumers owning their own data because frankly, my opinions are my own. And I think in the future, consumers are looking for a fair value exchange. So Tim Berners Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, thinks the internet's evolved in ways he never anticipated. I've seen him speak publicly and he's quite dismayed about where it's got to. He wants consumers to regain control of their data and have a fair value exchange. So how does this notion apply to market research? And what's the The nexus between consumers and their data and the value of that and market research.

Tom Smith:

Great question. I mean, I think what's interesting here is, is how much value is that data really, you know, companies are very successful, essentially, utilising data to drive their business models, the Facebook's, etc. Google's, their average revenue per user is still relatively low, if we can convert that into meaningful terms for an end user. So can 10s of dollars, not 1000s of dollars. And I said, Someone explained this really well, it's like, they often think people think data is new oil I will sitting on it's very valuable commodity. But actually, the better comparisons, the data is like sand, until you do something with the information it lacks real value, it's the processing is the presentation is the aggregation, millions of people's data, aggregated at scale is a highly valuable product, the individual data on its own doesn't hold the same level of value in these efforts to kind of, you know, help consumers realise that value controller permissions, and you know, what companies can do with it and potentially monetize it directly, are going to really struggle because the return for an individual consumer is going to be pretty low. That's just the reality. If we look at market research and market research, actually, they are monetizing your opinion, essentially. And they're helping you as a consumer to realise that in a highly privacy compliant way, I think this idea of people controlling their data across the web sounds fantastic in principle, but I think in reality, will not be played out any in any significance, because the value you lay on top of it's the aggregation of millions of people's data where you see the true value being created.

Andrew Grill:

I agree with you on one part, but I'm just thinking of a use case at the moment. So the other night, a friend of mine introduced me to these e scooters, I've never been on one before. And I've got to tell you this morning on my walk, I couldn't stop seeing scooters, and I'm looking at what they cost and which one I should have. So a scooter manufacturer, knowing that I'm in the market for scooter right now, and not having to market to me, I would argue there's a value but there's a time sensitive, just as if I'm looking for a BMW car, I'm only looking for a new car, they'd like to know that because it then stops them doing it. Now I agree with you that finding this one person who once every three years wants to change out their car or their insurance or buy a new scooter, it's very, very difficult. I must push back because I would like to think that I'm worth five to 10,000 pounds a year to a bunch of entities because for me to tell you what I'm interested in or what I like, I think there's value in that. And we may not win the argument today. But I think when consumers see things like Cambridge analytic here on the data goes out there. And there's a bunch of documentaries on Netflix about how social media is designed to be very addictive. I think consumers are now sort of going well, maybe there is some value, how you ascribe that I agree with you is very, very difficult. But I'm a Futurist. So I have to say this, but I would say in three to five years, there'll be more people like me, that will actually have a very different relationship to Facebook than you do. Because I'll have a different value exchange through my digital agent.

Unknown:

I think this couple aspects that because you think about how that's been done historically, you know, there are reams of third party data to advertise views to target consumers, which is supposedly based on intent. The problem with that data has it's been wildly hit and miss in terms of accuracy. And also, like you say it's very time specific. So you're in the market now for an E scooter. And I agree with you, they're brilliant, I'd quite like one,

Andrew Grill:

if they listen to this podcast tide or jump or whoever makes them make us an offer,

Tom Smith:

when it's been aggregated in a kind of advertising, you know, sold at scale, guess its values, it's been hitting this has been very low. When you've got a specific I'm buying a scooter. And like literally buy one or now. I mean, I can see the value in that, then the question is, how do you aggregate that because then you've got to be more meaningfully involved in the process, you know, and that gets closer to market research, you almost like you're volunteering, you're saying I actually in the marketplace right now. Now that would be you know, that would probably hold value for buyers. But again, you're going to need a normal scale in order to build that as a viable business. Because for every person's interest in a scooter, you know, the conversion rates are still going to be relatively low. So that's the realistic value on that piece of data is not going to be in the hundreds of pounds, certainly on a scooter. So again, it'll be the mechanics of how you aggregate that data which gets closer to market search. I guess you know, you're fully involved with the process. And that won't meaningfully work for every consumer out there. It will maybe work for some

Andrew Grill:

access to data is becoming harder and harder. We've got ad blockers first and third party data laws VPNs Apple now have a privacy relay their cookie laws GDPR. Does this make the collection of research data harder? And how do you keep up with regulation and client demands?

Tom Smith:

Actually, for market researchers, all of these initiatives are beneficial for us. The problem was these bad actors who are hoovering up user data reselling it. There's all sorts of examples of that and companies have literally been shut down over recent years because they were collecting mass data at scale. You're vaguely up to into it. You don't really realise it's been repackaged and resold to to advertisers and marketers market searches. You know, you fully engage the consumer you have to opt in. It's made the job more complicated GDPR we used to be able to do more in terms of matching data with client data but I think a net good of these initial and the increasing you know, privacy moving up the agenda and moving up legislate legislative agendas is a good thing. I mean, some of the legislation gets a bit clunky, like GDPR probably could be better designed, but the intentions were there. And it helps market research because people can only do market research, if they actively choose to, I can't force someone to do it, I can't collect their data about them realising they opt in at least twice, sometimes three times they have to opt into new use cases, has to be fully transparent how we're going to use the data. And actually, since since GDPR, came, it's been really good for our business. And certainly, if you were, you know, go back a few years, when I started this company, and said, I was going to build a market search product. People thought I was a bit mad, they said, you know, this is who's going to use market search, we're going to use actual data, we're going to take data from tracking from analytics from any me, that was kind of a large perception in the industry at the time. And that's been shown, that's not going to be the answer from standing audiences, because first of all, you know, legislation, laws privacy. Secondly, you've got issues with data quality, and you know, complexity of matching. first party data is madly complex. You know, a market search has never been more relevant for that respect, because it's opt in, it's privacy compliant. And it gives you the right data. So we, you know, we welcome these changes, and I think it's good for the consumer, I do think they should maybe look at some of the legislative GDPR, which should probably not help, you know, some of that could be dialled back without too much compromise to consumers privacy.

Andrew Grill:

So I know you already collect hundreds, if not 1000s of different data points from your market research ease, but what data would you like to collect? But it's currently prohibitive in terms of cost or technology?

Tom Smith:

That's a good question. I mean, yeah, I mean, there's some things that market research is not as well lended to and you asking about behavioural data, you know, how much time you spent doing certain things. Market. So she's brilliant for basically, facts about us and individual perceptions, lifestyles, attitudes, outlooks, it's the only way to do it. Simple behavioural data is fine, but some more complex like, time spent. Whether you've seen certain ads, programming is sometimes challenging, it certainly can work. But it's been able to do more in that space. And you know, being able to link some behavioural data will be really fascinating. I mean, the main things that we come across is, is an amazing error is we want to tackle our particular global product, our scale, is that we want to be able to reach more people, we want more people to, you know, the more you can survey, the better it is for the businesses that use our platform, because they tend to build much more detailed audiences. The more we can frequently survey people, the better. The bigger our pool of data, the more capabilities, we have to go back and answer and ask additional brand questions and very specific data points. So scale is important, the more people engage in market search ecosystem, the better for us. And that's probably the main sort of barriers, we come across capabilities in other markets, that some markets the ecosystem is not as develops is quite hard to drive large samples in some of the African countries that were surveying in a lot of these, you know, very large internet markets. But the reacher research infrastructure has not really caught up as much The other area that we would like more capabilities to be able to purchase mobile data collection. So we use that a lot. And we've invested now in our own software, we wanted to do more with the user experience within a mobile handset specifically. And we want it to be a better experience, people who are happier, answering more questions, spending more time doing it, and many surveys, they were engineered for desktop. And secondly, they're not a fantastic user experience. So you know, we're very committed to making that better experience and more people engaged, we can collect more data, we can move more and more of into mobile.

Andrew Grill:

So you're constantly innovating. Are there new insights that brands are really hungry for? Oh, I

Tom Smith:

mean, yeah, constantly. I mean, the marketplace is always moving, right? So, you know, in the last 18 months, you know, it's obvious examples, but everyone wants to know how to adjust their business model, you know, the pandemic and we went back to market and collected data, you know, constantly about what was happening with Coronavirus. And people's attitudes were to, you know, at the beginning, that was there was a feeling that you shouldn't even engage as an advertiser, it just didn't feel appropriate to do advertising. So it's like, okay, what do people really think about that? And actually, most consumers were not that bothered. And they answered that businesses need to keep going. So building those kind of understanding was critical. helping businesses figure out how to move their products online service offering online, all of those things are really key topics. There's much more need from advertisers to understand every aspect of humanity and diversity particularly in terms of segments and what they having much richer understanding that sometimes been lacking in market research, so very focused on that. And Eastern understanding things like sexual orientation, gender identification, these are modern topics that have often been lacking from market research. And we collect them and are pushing the boundaries and where we can collect that, which is very difficult in some countries. But that's a real need from, you know, marketers today and modern businesses. And yeah, Reese, I mean, lots of very topical things that people won't understand NF T's Bitcoin gig economy. These are many things coming down the line, you need a very up to date, understanding what's going on. So we've engineered our products, we can constantly add and take away new data. And that's really important. And that's something that traditionally was hard with the old way of running offline market search, because A, it's very slow, but be making changes on an ongoing research products difficult. So you've got to be constantly moving and changing.

Andrew Grill:

So again, with all these new data sets, and things that are changing all the time, if you're a traditional marketer, or traditional market research person in a large brand, do they need to be retrained in how to use these new datasets and really explode their view of what's the art of the possible with your tool?

Tom Smith:

depends who you're talking to. So we work with two core segments driving our business, we have a core data guardians that people have worked with research for many years, the two tend to be market researchers by trade and data scientists or analysts. That's their job. Typically, they know how to work with our data. Very rarely, people who have never worked with such global data, and it froze up lots of new insights, you might not be familiar with answers, get an understanding of that. And sometimes people are really surprised the scale of markets in Brazil, China, Indonesia, you haven't seen this data quantified before. And it can be quite surprising. So this is like sometimes it's an education piece of data there. But typically, when we work with research experts, they know how to use the product, they've been working with data for years. The other area we help them with is distribution of data. So how they can share it for the organisation how they can help align companies around their audiences, so they can move more quickly. As a key part of getting the most out of the data. The other key segment, which is a big growth area for us, is what we call storytellers. So these are people that are using data, but it's not a day job. They're not experts, there could be a salesperson, could be startup founder, could be a CEO could be someone work in HR could be from anywhere in an organisation. These people are organically coming to our platform. We're reaching them through companies we work with, they don't know how to work with market research in the same level of capacity, because it's not their day job, but they want to get insights out. They want to build knowledge. This is an area we're very focused on. And we've just launched a new platform, which is really geared to helping non experts drive insights quickly. And this is where the platform comes in. It's really key that there was a lot more education around how you can use data, how you can understand the insights and how you can use them. be remiss

Andrew Grill:

of me not to ask you, how is your business evolved? And how do you manage teams remotely? I'll be fair to

Tom Smith:

say we're we're very much an in office business. You know, we had some teams remote to the engineering. But we were generally four days in maybe one day out was the typical scenario before. So it was a bit of an organisational shock. As from an organisational sense, the business has never operated better, we've been much more focused, much more organised, we were set up to work remotely. I mean, everything about the product is all done online service collection, you know, everyone can collaborate online, we use Slack is central of how we operate, everything's in the cloud. So that that sense, it was fairly seamless. And we did a lot of stuff that everyone would have done, you know, we did spend a lot more time in internal communication townhalls became weekly, right at the height of the pandemic. Constant comms is really, really important, which don't necessarily need to do in face to face that four or five months ago, we set how we wanted to come back to the office. And we said, we're going to move back to hybrid working, which will come in place at the beginning of October up until that point, we did work anywhere. So we said you do whatever you want, you can come in the office, when we were allowed to open them if you want, you don't need to if you don't need want to that's been, you know, very well received, we did half day Fridays, which again, you know, working like on the screen is very intense. And it's a lot higher level of intensity than being in an office. So, you know, that was extremely well received. And we will roll that keep that in the future in the summer periods. And we said where people can go back you know who's so comfortable with people working wherever that we will move to a very flexible hybrid system where teams can pick to come in one to three days a week or sometimes we less frequency than that most teams will be to not rigorously enforced. One of the things that we have missed is the collaboration right face to face is great. I had my team together last week for the first time. I've had new joiners in my direct team First time in 18 months if any of us have met, you know, as one of Carrie works me in New York, she came as finally come over. And it was fantastic. You do so much in one day, that would take three months zoom calls, successful teams need to trust each other need to work together to build that bond, hard to do that on Zoom entirely. So what we're trying to do is bring the best of that. And the best homework in which clearly is very efficient. The one or two days in the office is really about collaboration, team meetings, spending time with other teams you don't normally engage with. And that's one of the problems Zoom is very siloed, to try and get everyone just integrate more. So we're trying to bring back the both of those. And by having fixed stays at least no one, everyone's going to be there. And we'll try this and see how it goes. And you know, the idea is we'll move on now for next six months for people that are really uncomfortable to come in because of health reasons. You know, we're not going to pressure the situation, but most people are very comfortable to come in. And yeah, we'll see how it goes. It's been good organizationally, for the business for sure.

Andrew Grill:

So you've just set out what most people are telling me in terms of having to adapt and giving flexibility. So how does the rise of remote distributed workers changed the market research landscape,

Tom Smith:

I mean, definitely had a fundamental impact. I mean, and again, these are headwinds that helped us as a business because of our approach. So on the one hand, is data collection, if you are committed to offline data collection, that just came to a halt. Last year, it's come back now but cause enormous problems and many, many research projects, which is paused. And as a reason why the industry declined. I think it's, it says 4% decline last year, in aggregate, because of those problems. You couldn't unfilled work. So that's a major problem. The other big problem is process. So a lot of market search organisations are still very fixed on service in a service model, having teams work together present, you know, in this format is a bit slower. The key thing for me is, you know, you've you've now working with predominantly distributed remote teams, that's not I don't think that's going to change, you know, people are going to be all over the place remote and hybrid working is going to be the norm. Teams can be anywhere. And it's this is really important for us because we've committed, we committed to the model of putting our data in a platform and making it organisation accessible. That becomes more important challenges market search, when everyone's everywhere is alignment, like so how do you make sure that everyone understands what you're trying to say? How do you bake those audiences into the business lexicon, the business strategy, these are much harder when everyone's distributed. So having a platform based solution, and not a PowerPoint associate around is really key. Because everyone can log in, they can view product, they can understand it, they can query it themselves and not rely on, you know, going to ask another team to do the work. This is vital if you're going to permeate the insights and research into an organisation. So from our side, it's great. I mean, honestly, because we committed to that. And that's going to be the future work. So you know, platforms absolutely vital.

Andrew Grill:

So I'm a technology future. So I have to look at the effect of all new technologies and all segments. So where does AI fit into your solution? And the market more broadly?

Tom Smith:

Good question again. So AI is something that we've been working into our survey products, when you use our the survey product, we built it. So you want to make it more of less of a survey more of an engaging experience. So we were using an AI approach to be able to answer this, like you're talking to a bot, basically. And that may make some more engaging experience. Also, you know, that the idea of is to to serve more relevant questions talk in a more natural way. And that's something we've been working on the last three or four years, there's so far you can go with that. And actually, some of the interesting areas on top of that are how you turn a survey to voice products. So you're using natural language processing to turn text notes voice into text, you know, which is the more engaging survey experience. So there's lots of interesting areas around there. The other area AI will be relevant to us. And, you know, we haven't been implementing much less at the moment, but it's certainly in our future vision and roadmap is how do you help people extract the value from the data? That's a really big challenge. And that's where, you know, AI, and machine learning, you know, can help drive the automation of insights to help develop intelligence on top of the data, you know, where we will commit to in the future is q&a. So you know, rather than going to platform and have to think about what I'm looking for, find it, analyse it, figure out the insights. When we reach our true extent, which could be 510 years down the line, the longer term vision is you just you could just ask question, you get the answer. That should be where we're going to get to. And that is stuff that we're going to start working on fully automating that we're moving the platform, essentially, that is almost actually a friction between you and the answer. You should just have to ask the question. So that's where we want to get to, and it's not going to be easy, but we'll be focused on it.

Andrew Grill:

So I have a favourite marketing cartoon, as you may know him, Tom Fishburne, and every Monday. He has a take on the marketing industry and he spends a lot of time taking apart personas. And as you know, personas try and group people into a predefined segment with As changing so quickly, are personas still relevant?

Tom Smith:

100% I think it's probably easy to take them apart and say they're, you know, generalising people, you know, having spent my formative years in advertising and marketing broadly, there are some, you know, very stereotypical personas developed. Sometimes the reality of what your true persona is, is not as aspirational, maybe as they'd want it to be. Personas are very helpful is a very helpful discipline to understand your, your, your customer base, right. And we you know, we've done it in our business. So we relaunched our internal strategy last year, and we built the business around on the Sonny's two personas, guardians are storytellers. Now, there's going to be many subsets within that which you can also explore a more granular level. But it really helps when you build that understanding into the business. And everyone aligns around those. It really helps an organisation move more quickly, because every decision you make is, is is driving the needs of guardians or storytellers. And then there are further personas and set beneath that, again, will drive further decision making. But it makes once you build that understanding, because the business and everyone understands it, you can make decisions fast, you can align very quickly. You give people the guardrails and a framework to make the right decisions that drive the correct strategy that make the business go quicker. So I think that they're very valuable. All our customers are working with audiences personas. Yeah, I mean, I think it's a very, very necessary approach that helps us distil the complexity of a marketplace into something that's that's genuinely actionable. So in

Andrew Grill:

the time we've got left, let's just look at the future. How will the insights industry change beyond 2021?

Tom Smith:

You know, I think a lot a lot of these things, that things that we're already working on that are very necessary, right? So, you know, one is getting immediate access to answers like, this is really, really two aspects of that. One is super quick response from the consumer. And the other one is making the data very quick and easy to access to analyse that. Our answer to that is having pre collecting the data. So you log in, it's already there. You know, I think there'll be a general shift away from continually running custom market research, a lot of which is identical, you know, as far as as a study is running at the moment, probably avoid similar topics made sense, at global scale to aggregate as much of that and run it in a pre collected way, which is what we're committed to, I think you'll see more of that. That's key, I think, reimagining what we talked about a bit but reimagining the experience for consumers. So more people engage in market research, get richer answers, people come back to do you know, contribute more, that's really important. So that's why we, you know, committed to building our own platform here. There's other companies doing great things here. And as a general evolution to make surveys a better experience, which is great. These are really important. The other area, I think, is critical is the general expansion of research infrastructure so we can get more markets quantify more markets, collected data until until consumers are surveyed data collected, visible and made available to businesses that essentially invisible and having that coverage globally, it's really important to make sure companies understand the true extent of their opportunity, make sure the right dollar investments going to, you know, other markets outside us Western Europe, this stuff's really important. Growing that infrastructure globally, is really important. The focus is how you utilise data and get a lot more out of it. So this is the user experience platform. It's automating insights democratising it making it super simple. You think of the big challenge here that said, like that $80 billion years going to market search most of that after the first presentation, most of that will sit in a hard disk somewhere, even a cloud, just sitting there gathering dust, never to be looked at again. And the amount of value that sits in those those datasets is not utilised is actually, you know, it's a problem we should be tackling. And I think that's a big area of focus for me moving forward.

Andrew Grill:

So I always take my guests through a quick fire round quick answers. Good answer PC or MAC

Tom Smith:

MAC Boni just a leech, I'm probably the last person to cover from a PC to Mac literally last few months. Never going back

Andrew Grill:

iPhone or Android?

Tom Smith:

iPhone, always.

Andrew Grill:

What are you reading at the moment,

Tom Smith:

I'm actually reading a book called The advantage by Patrick Len Sione, and this is something we read for work, sort of understanding how you create good functioning teams and how you align them around core strategy and vision. It's actually really fascinating. And we're implementing a lot of the findings. So that's, that's the reading list at the moment. And what's the best advice you've ever received? Mainly around I mean, especially as a beginner founding a business is like, whenever you think you're gonna be able to achieve and wherever time scale you've said, triple it. Probably double it again,

Andrew Grill:

as this is the actionable futures podcast, what three pieces of actionable advice do you have for our listeners when it comes to market research?

Tom Smith:

First one is build expertise in your your knowledge area, I think I would never be able to start this business about doing it somewhere else and understanding the problem. And ultimately, I'll be a user of the product today and you need that inherent knowledge. I think, in order to be successful, and to get some it get to get traction on anything. I think that's inherently incredibly vital. The other thing for me is persistence. It will take huge amount of time. And I think a lot of businesses that still standing are the ones who just kept going, you know, people don't do things for long enough, that's expected to work in 12 months. It's not it's gonna take five years. So you need to be ready to make that commitment. And I didn't realise that at the time, I learned the hard way. But that would be my, you know, big advice for anyone starting a company is huge amount of time, fairly, obviously, the culture is everything a company, you got to get that right? Everything else fall out from that if you don't commit to spending time on that and hiring the right people and committees to try and make the right environment you'd want to work in people can commit their careers to you know, you're not going to make it doesn't matter how good your product is how you know how strong your proposition is, it always depends on culture. And people that I know are incredibly important when it comes to market research, you know, lots of products product like ours or other products in the market now going out and collecting the data that's going to answer 90% of what you want to know. And actually, the speed of data is more powerful often than being able to collect at exactly everything in the right format, exactly how you want it because you need speed and scale. And insights get stale quite quickly. So if you run your own project, by the time you get it back and you and you want to understand it, you go well, we got new questions you want answered this, go start from scratch. By time we get that data, the worlds we've done. So my advice is to reef to rethink how you run these processes. Think about working with data that's already there.

Andrew Grill:

Tom, you're a passionate advocate for your industry. And I've really joined a discussion. How can people find out more about you and your work?

Tom Smith:

You can come to gwi.com, find me on LinkedIn, Tom Smith, there are lots of Tom Smiths so you definitely have to put Tom Smith, GWI. There's a lot of content on our site, you know, and about the industry and how you can utilise data, which I think it's really interesting. It's lots of reports people can understand the data and what it's saying. So I would really recommend to come there.

Andrew Grill:

Tom, thank you so much for your time and good luck with the business.

Tom Smith:

Thank you. I really enjoyed the chat. Great questions as well. Thank you.

Outro:

Thank you for listening to The Actionable Futurist Podcast, you can find all of our previous shows as actionable futurist.com. And if you like what you've heard on the show, please consider subscribing via your favourite podcast app, so you never miss an episode. You can find out and then what about Andrew and how he helps corporates navigate the disruptive digital world with keynote speeches, and C suite workshops delivered in person and virtually at actionablefuturist.com. Until next time, this has been The Actionable Futurist Podcast.