Monday, 7 November 2011

‘No fuss, no nonsense, no tantrums’

And there I was thinking it’s time I posted a blog and I get the subject matter handed to me on a silver platter. One of my clients chooses to email me to say that he ‘loves my approach’. And why does he love my approach? Because, in his words, it’s ‘no fuss, no nonsense, no tantrums.’

To say that this response is pleasing is something of an understatement, especially when this quote comes from someone who has worked in the advertising industry for decades and who knows what fuss and nonsense and tantrums can look like and feel like from a client perspective.

Added to this is the fact that without realising it, this person has summed up exactly what I’ve been striving for in all my years in business. It’s what underpins my work; it actually makes up a decent part of my personality.

And then of course I get to thinking… Like all good researchers one needs to fully interrogate this new piece of data.

The other side to making no fuss is that sometimes you don’t get noticed. The other side to no nonsense and no tantrums is that sometimes the hard work which is put into something does not get recognised and does not always get appreciated.

Again this can be looked at from a work and personal perspective.

Another client once introduced me as someone who was brilliant at what he does but ‘s***’ at marketing himself – you see there is a potential downside to no fuss, no nonsense.

In my personal life also I’m often judged as the person for whom things seem to work out fine, as if by magic – but again that’s often because when things are not going so well, tantrums tend to be rare and the hard work that goes on in the background to make things fine is rarely discussed beyond a close family circle.

So let’s weigh up these pros and cons.

Am I happy to be known as the person who makes no fuss, creates no nonsense, and has no tantrums? You bet I am.

Am I bothered if some people choose not to see or acknowledge the work that goes into making things work out from a business and personal perspective? Not really because their lack of acknowledgement probably says as much about them as it does about me.

No, on due reflection, I’m fully content with my newly-coined tagline.

And not that I’m one to make a fuss or anything but this comment comes on the most successful day of commissioning that we’ve had as a business since we started in 1994.

‘No fuss, no nonsense, no tantrums’. Try it; it might work for you as well.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Tuesday - Telling it like it is

A recent course leader specialising in social media suggested that I was over-thinking when it came to decisions such as who to ‘allow’ into my social network. ‘Consider quantity not quality’ was his mantra for the day.

Well I’ve been pondering on this ever since and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m right and he’s wrong.

Because the quant v qual question has played a large part in my working life and for me the qual word has always held sway.

It’s about the quality of the research, the quality of the researcher that counts; just as it is the quality of the connection and the quality of the relationship that matters in the longer term.

And yes, it’s good to build on these quality contacts but surely the bullet approach will always be an improvement on buckshot.

So I’ve decided to stick to my guns (ha ha) and continue my journey on the qual over quant pathway.

We will continue to suggest to clients that they don’t just ask how many groups or depth interviews they can buy for a certain amount of money but to also ask who exactly will be conducting those interviews and how much experience do they have of engaging with customers, of dealing with clients.

We’ll also continue to argue that whilst some quant researchers can turn their hand to qual, there are times when qualitative specialism counts, and so too experience.


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Spice of Life, Variety

When asked what I like about my job a stock response over the years has been on the theme of variety.  Variety of clients, variety of people interviewed, variety of topics addressed. 

It was musing on the third of these areas recently which urged me to look for evidence as to whether I could still justify this response these days.  So I’ve looked back just to the start of this year and have been genuinely taken aback by the variety of subjects already tackled in 2011.

I started to imagine a weekend during which I might connect with the products we have been asked to look at, the services we’ve been asked to consider, and the projects we’ve been commissioned to work on.  Here’s how the weekend might pan out.

Friday evening fancied a treat, reached for a dessert whilst flicking through some brochures trying to choose our next holiday.  Should we go camping this year or maybe a package holiday in the sun?  We’ve enjoyed holidays with Keycamp and Eurocamp over the last few years so that’s always a safe bet.

My wife found she was having trouble with the small-print in the brochures so had to wear her reading glasses for a while.  She went for Foster Grant this time, bought them at the same time as her sunglasses. 

A friend has a caravan we might borrow but he’s often talking about cleaning his caravan and the shampoos he has to buy for it.  He says Mer products are great and they work on cars as well.  Personally I’ve just discovered G3 so that’s my brand of choice these days for car shampoo. 

Of course camping might involve investment in new equipment; the airbed is looking a bit shabby and the sleeping bags also need replacing.  As for the tent, we’ve had that for years and it still does the job.  I’ve always trusted in the Coleman brand when it comes to camping equipment.

Saturday and up early, thinking about the dinosaur exhibition which might be coming to National Museums Liverpool later this year. 

Instead headed for the shops and Aldi first off – needed tea, mayonnaise, peanut butter, bread, biscuits, jam, cereal, fish fingers and some bread for toast

Shopping done, called in at Millie’s Cookies for a muffin and a cookie.  Wondering about a barbeque tomorrow so maybe get some quarter pounders and frankfurters too – should I choose a branded option or go own label instead?  Wondering about a cake mix as an option too, or shall I just go to the M&S bakery?

Saturday night needed to sort out finances before settling into the evening.  Have been thinking about switching banks for a while and wondering about one of those Co-operative Bank Privilege accounts, or is it Privilege Premier, can’t remember.

Sunday morning, we’re off to the show homes down the road.  We fancy a new home this time, probably from Redrow Homes; less maintenance and it would be nice to be the first into a property. 

Weekend nearly done, I just need to do some online shopping before bed.  Oh and I keep meaning to check next weekend’s arrangements for our theatre trip with Superbreak.

It’s been a busy weekend.  And so have the last six months. 
Here’s to an even spicier second half of the year.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Enigma Farewell

As many who read this will know, for the last two years we have been running a viewing facility alongside our research business. But this week sees the end of Enigma as we close its doors for the final time.

Reflecting on the experiences we have had, a curate’s egg is the phrase which comes to mind. It has definitely only been good in parts.

Good when we’ve had pleasant visitors and clients who have treated our facility and its staff with respect and a touch of dignity. Not so good when our members of staff have been treated as minions and respect has been notable by its absence.

When we took on Enigma I think I was living under the impression that people who did a similar job to the one I did – moderating groups, often in viewing facilities – were probably all at least a little something like me. I tend to be quite friendly and pleasant to people whom I meet for the first time. It is part of what I think makes me good at what I do.

The reality is that through running Enigma I now realise that I may be a rarer species in the world of qualitative research than I thought I once was.

Because at Enigma I’ve had people grunt at me when I’ve offered to make them some labels. At Enigma I’ve had people telling clients that they’re ‘stuck with’ our facility because there aren’t many places like ours in the north-west. And that was before they had walked through the door.

At Enigma I’ve had someone ring to ask directions saying that she thought she was nearby because she’s just turned into a road which feels like ‘Stig of the dump’ land.

So not too many tears will be shed as the keys are turned for the final time. The state of the economy has meant that this has not been the most successful venture we have undertaken. But possibly equally as depressing as that has been the insight this has given us into the way some researchers operate when they use viewing facilities like ours.

Come on qually types – some of you are giving us a bad name…     

Monday, 4 April 2011

Spies Like Us

I have written before about my career-spanning dilemma about how to explain what I do for a living.  Do I answer in one sentence, tell people ‘I’m in market research’ and run the risk of being viewed as a slightly geeky type, obsessed by clip-boards?  Or do I try and take up more of their time and outline a typical week in which I might be interviewing an artist in New York one day and delivering a boardroom debrief at a supermarket client’s head office the next?
A current project, however, is about to change all of this because I now have a brand new answer at my disposal.  Next time someone asks what I do, I’m going to look them in the eye and say, ‘I’m a spy’.
Then it’ll be their choice won’t it.  They can go for the longer explanation of my job in which I’ll say I do some undercover work testing whether members of staff are implementing a new training scheme which is being rolled out by a new client.  I can back this up saying I’m in possession of a new ‘spy camera’ which I can hide about my person and later produce DVD recordings of the staff encounters I have had.  
Or they can stick with the one word answer of ‘spy’ and conjure up their own image of me sipping shaken not stirred cocktails, whilst parachuting down to a snow-capped mountain, at the bottom of which awaits my latest flame in the passenger seat of my personalised number-plated Aston Martin DB7.
Not a bad choice, I believe, because either way I think I’m going to be a winner.
In the longer answer I get a chance to explain why I’ve been doing this job for so many years and why I still find it a most interesting and rewarding profession.
And in the shorter answer I’m no longer geeky clipboard boy who hangs around on street corners.
But Hawker, Barrie Hawker, double o seven and three-quarters, licensed to thrill…
Another option lurks too of course; I can point them in the direction of our new website at

Friday, 14 January 2011

A Brief Meeting & Meeting a Brief

In my early days as a researcher I was asked by a senior executive from Barclays Bank at the end of a presentation, whether I felt the project had answered the original research objectives. Strange though it seems now, it was a question which I hadn’t specifically addressed in my final summary and conclusions. In the nervous moments that followed I returned to the objectives and was able to explain how each aspect of the brief had been addressed and this seemed to satisfy the client enough for him to commission more work at a later date.
Since then I’ve always been conscious of drawing attention to how objectives have been answered and how briefs have been met before I finish any debrief or presentation.
I mention this point because our recent experience of having a business make-over and investing in a new website has focused my mind again on how important it is to meet a brief. And indeed, how satisfying it can feel, as a client in this instance, to see a brief being met.
This project began with a brief meeting. Here, the design agency, Pitch & Co. ( urged us to tell them what we felt was different about our company and what we felt set us apart from our competitors. These were questions I’m more used to asking than being asked, so the meeting didn’t feel the most comfortable.
That said, between us, we came up with some key words which we felt summed us up, and some key aspects of our business which we felt we really wanted to be put across through our new look and our new website.
A couple of weeks later, we were being shown ideas for a new logo and having chosen that, we were then onto website design.
It is fair to say that before the launch of our new look, we were becoming giddy at the prospect of revealing all to our clients and our peers. But whilst we were excited, we hadn’t envisaged the reception we were about to receive from those who had not been involved in the briefing and design process.
The feedback we received, and continue to receive, suggests that not only did we put our message across to the designers, but the designers totally and utterly took it on board and ran with it. One brief meeting led to one brief being fully met.
Praise for the new look and the website has been fulsome. And certain comments made have matched sometimes word for word the points we made at the first briefing meeting.
The most recent phrase someone used was ‘it’s very you’, exactly what we had asked from the designers. Another ad agency client commented how he felt the new website ‘lifts your spirits’, and proceeded to commission a piece of work which has already helped pay for the website itself.
Others have also claimed it makes them smile, it cheers them up.
We feel the website conveys much more than just fun, however. It also clearly addresses some serious issues we wanted to raise about research generally and about the Park Lane Research approach to research specifically.
A key aim was to say that the world of market research doesn’t have to be dull. And that those working in it aren’t necessarily dull either.
Another aim was to say that we work across a number of key sectors, and what better way than to invent a virtual
Park Lane
on which many of our clients are seen to reside.
Our continuing delight with the new look and the new website has helped us to look forward to 2011 with added vim and vigour. We feel Pitch & Co, not only helped us develop our brief but also then went on to meet it, to smash it even, I’d say.
So here’s a toast to a new year, a new look and a new us. And here’s to brief meetings and meeting briefs.
And if you haven’t done already, take a look at our new website for yourself at