As a lead-in to the upcoming Corporate Researchers Conference (CRC), MRA conducted a brief Q&A with some of the experts scheduled to appear. We got some great answers, which should help you get to know the speakers a bit as well as whet your appetite for more.

Today’s insights are from Jon Sadow, Business Development Associate at Google Consumer Surveys, who’ll participate in the CRC “Methodology Jam Session.”

MRA: People get into marketing research in so many different ways, sometimes by accident. How did you come to be working on the consumer survey product at Google?

Jon Sadow: I was fascinated by the opportunity that we saw in bringing technology to a segment that was still figuring out how to use it. The interest for Google was never to build a marketing research tool. Google Consumer Surveys (GCS) was conceived as a solution to address two problems: publisher monetization of content and degradation of the user experience. And, admittedly, we stumbled into the marketing research space.

Personally, I had no background in research. I started off in advertising at Google. But, I knew of the GCS team and had worked previously with the group’s manager. I knew what they were doing and that they were getting ready to bring the product to market. I saw an opportunity and joined the team to help develop the market.

Not having a background in research proved helpful, because it meant that I had no preconceptions about what the tool or the offering “should” be. As a group, we had to learn what we didn’t know, and the process of asking a lot of questions helped us to improve the product.

It’s in Google’s nature to build absolute best tech-driven product we can. We don’t see ourselves as an outlet to collect sample. We really want to be a tool for researchers to analyze data and communicate those findings.

MRA: As someone outside the research industry, what’s your take on the visibility of the corporate researcher role? Do you think corporate researchers are becoming more visible inside their companies, or less so? Why?

Jon: We’ve observed that there’s an extreme amount of variability. In some cases they’re very operational, seen as operational arms of the company that are there to collect whatever data are needed. But our observation is that approach catalyzes an assembly-line style of research and doesn’t really allow the researchers to add the value we all know they can. We see other researchers who say, “I know that I can find new ways to gather data and find meaning there, and bring that learning back to the business.” And, frankly, those are the researchers who are taking on a much more prominent role, because they’re driving strategy and building value, and making a bigger difference in the business.

MRA: Based on what you know of the industry, how can corporate researchers better sell the value they bring within their organizations?

Jon: If they want to better sell their value, they need to be thought leaders as much as they are data technicians. They need to bring answers as well as numbers; to be seen as creators and innovators.

MRA: How do you respond to the claim that DIY corporate research can’t compete, in terms of quality, with research conducted by an external supplier? Can you offer any examples?

Jon: We’re in a position now, with our validation studies, where we’re finding more evidence – and more convincing evidence – that our tools can give results that are representative of the U.S. internet population. As long as that’s the target population and the survey design works within the mechanics of GCS, you will not get misleading data because you’re using our tool instead of something else. We’re collecting the same quality of data that you’d get elsewhere.

As far as self-service research – we prefer that term over do-it-yourself, which, we think, has some negative connotations – if the expertise is there to interpret the research, there’s no reason that the end product can’t be of high quality. Again, it’s a tool that’s giving more control back to the researcher. It’s not designed to take the place of a research service and, in fact, we see ourselves as another way to enable collaboration between research buyers and research suppliers.

MRA: What do you think the growth of DIY research on the corporate side means for research suppliers? Is the impact positive, negative, or mixed? Why?

Jon: On the ad side, everyone’s come to expect, and embraces, the fact that there are so many moving parts to the process. There are clients, publishers, media agencies, creative agencies – and everyone knows that the various pieces fit together and work together. So, it’s been interesting to see how the players fit together in the research space.

Most researchers we speak to who work on the client side would like to have more control over what they’re doing, while still collaborating with partners. We think suppliers and clients can collaborate using our tool. The more we can facilitate that, the more successful we’ll be.

Ultimately, we want to help all businesses make data driven decisions and we are attempting to build tools that give them access to that data in a more timely, cost-effective way.