Episode 282:

Back in the good old days (pre great recession) agencies used research to make their work smarter and more effective. But it became a luxury we trimmed out as we had to squeeze budgets. As we emerged from the recession, we dismissed research as expensive and didn’t build it into our recommendations as often as we should. But what if we could benefit from the insights research provides without busting the budget?

This week’s guest Matt Seltzer has worked in several agencies in a research capacity. A couple years ago he started a market research firm specifically to partner with ad agencies to create more revenue streams and gather insight for themselves and their clients.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Matt and I talk about the many ways agencies of any size can utilize DIY research to build better pitches and client work. We discuss options for reducing bias, increasing response, and minimizing survey fatigue. We also explore ways to approach clients about investing in research, different ways to utilize the insights, and specific areas where agencies get research wrong.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

DIY research

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Effective DIY research options
  • The benefits of simple surveys
  • Why customer personas are helpful
  • The way to increase survey response
  • Ways to reduce bias in DIY research
  • Why clients appreciate research
  • How to avoid survey fatigue
  • How to approach a client about adding research
  • Different ways to use the research insights
  • Misperceptions that keep us from DIY research
  • Ways agencies get research wrong
“Learning is different than validating what you think you know.” @S2Research Click To Tweet “If you want a client’s business, you need to be able to tell them something they don’t know about their own business.” @S2Research Click To Tweet “Surveys are more than report cards. If you only focus on A’s and F’s, you’re missing an opportunity to learn so much more.” @S2Research Click To Tweet “The world is in such flux right now that we can’t afford to assume.” @S2Research Click To Tweet “If you facilitate research in marketing, you create better marketing.” @S2Research Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Matt Seltzer:

Additional Resources:

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute community, where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money and keep more of what you make. The Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ is packed with insights on how small to mid-size agencies survive and thrive in today’s market bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency, owner and agency consultant. Please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. I kind of tell you, I am so grateful that you keep listening and that you write and that you connect with me on LinkedIn and that you find these podcasts valuable. I got to tell you it’s fun to do even if you weren’t listening. I have great conversations. I meet amazing people but it’s a lot better when I know that I’m asking questions, not just for myself but for all of you. And I know how busy you are, and I know all of the things that you juggle. And so the fact that you throw us into the mix and you juggle us into your week, makes me super grateful. So thank you very much for listening. So this week’s episode we’re going to talk about something that a lot of agencies used to do, and then with the great recession, it faded off. It’s coming back into favor, but perhaps not as much as it should.

Drew McLellan:

So I’m going to let you ponder that. It’s like a quiz while I remind you that I am hoping that we are connected on the social channels somewhere and that you are seeing the weekly videos that I shoot. So they’re two, three, maybe up to five minutes, a simple tip, something that has caught my attention that week or I’ve been thinking about or maybe I’ve been writing about. And I just want to share with all of you the easiest place to connect with me to get all of that information is in a couple of places. One on LinkedIn, two in the Facebook group for this podcast. So go to Facebook search for Build a Better Agency, answer the questions and we will let you in. Those are the two best places. We also share it on the AMI Facebook page.

Drew McLellan:

But anyway, if you’re not connected to me in any of those places, and you say, “Heck no, I don’t want to be connected to Drew.” Another way you can watch those videos is on the website. So if you go to agencymanagementinstitute.com/video, not videos, video, you will see the library of the videos that we have produced. We’re still uploading all of them but there’s probably a good 20 or 30 of them there now. So I have a year’s worth. And I’ve been doing that for, I don’t know, year and a half, two years. So we’re getting there. We’re getting caught up but you’ll see the most recent ones anyway. And we are backfilling as quickly as we can. So if you’re not connected with me on social and you’re not in the Facebook group for the podcast and you don’t have a desire to do those things, you can also watch the videos every week on the website, agencymanagementinstitute.com/videos. So check that out.

Drew McLellan:

All right. Let me tell you a little bit about our guests. So Matt Seltzer is a research nerd and he owns his own research company. He’s also worked in many agencies in a research capacity, and I’ll let him tell you a little bit more about that. So Matt and I were chatting, I think it was on LinkedIn, maybe in the Facebook group, but anyway, we were talking about research and I was saying that I was concerned that there were a lot of agencies that still weren’t doing research, that prior to the great recession, research was really a common thing that agencies of all sizes did. They partnered with research partners, they did it themselves, whatever it was but they really embraced the idea of having these insights that come with research and that the great recession wiped that out because it was a luxury, not a necessity for getting the work done.

Drew McLellan:

And so as agencies were skinning down budgets to try and get clients to bite on things, during the recession, research was one of the things that often got cut out of the mix. And we haven’t been awesome at folding it back in and you know because of the agency edge research that we do with [Zhou Buyer 00:04:31] and Audience Audit, you know I am a huge proponent of research. We talk about it in the book, Sell with Authority and how that can be one of your cornerstone. So I am a big proponent of research. Anyway, so then Matt and I started talking about different ways agencies could think about DIY research which I thought was really an interesting way to get us back in the door of doing more research.

Drew McLellan:

And so I asked him to come on the show and chat with us about ways that we as agencies can start doing our own research. Granted, it’s not the same as working with a partner but that there are some things, there is a happy medium if I’m not doing it at all and having the budget to pay a good research partner to do the research. There is something in the middle that maybe we’re not thinking about as much. So that’s what we’re going to talk to Matt about today, and I am ready to jump in and do that. So let’s cut right to the chase. All right, Matt, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Matt Seltzer:

Thanks for having me Drew, I appreciate it.

Drew McLellan:

So tell everybody a little bit about the work you do and your background, so they understand why I’m going to ask you the questions that we’re going to talk about today.

Matt Seltzer:

Yeah, absolutely. So actually my career started, I was a bookkeeper when I was in college and I always wanted to work in marketing. I was a marketing major and I had a friend who was working at an ad agency, a big agency out here in Las Vegas at [inaudible 00:05:50] place. And they had an opening in their research team, their market research team. And I got the job because I was the only person who applied who knew 10 people. And that goes back to my book keeping. And I looked at it as great. It’s a foot in the door at an ad agency. I’ll figure out a way to get into another department, go from there. And I ended up falling in love with research. I thought it was the coolest part of what we do as an agency. I was doing everything from surveys to audience focus groups, to just taking all that information and presenting it back to a creative team. And I thought this was the coolest thing ever. And then 2008 came lost my job. That happens in 2008 [crosstalk 00:06:26].

Drew McLellan:

And part of being an agency, it happens.

Matt Seltzer:

That’s a totally normal thing. Exactly. So I said, okay, I’m going to go to another agency and keep doing research. And what I found is the vast majority of small to mid-size agencies, don’t have a research team. So I’ve done a lot of things since then. I’ve worked at a few different agencies doing account management strategy. I’ve worked in-house a few times too. And actually most recently I worked in house doing market research. But the whole reason I say that is I’ve always seen these two worlds of research and marketing, the world seasons are different and whenever possible, I try to bring them back together. So about a year and a half ago now, time flies. I started a company called S2 Research, which is a market research firm specifically designed to partner with ad agencies to give them another revenue stream and honestly, another way to gather insights to make better marketing for their clients.

Drew McLellan:

You’re right. So when I started early in my career, I started at YNR Once I got out of college and we had a whole research department, right? And they would do anything from consumer research or client research to as a copywriter, I’d call them and go, “Tell me 20 interesting things about loons.” And in an hour, I would have what I needed to brainstorm about an ad about loons. So I went from that and then I went into smaller agencies that didn’t have it but you’re right. The recession really, it was one of the nice to haves but not mandatories that agencies began to cut out of budgets as they tried to stay in connection with clients during the great recession. It was like, “Look, we got to skinny this thing down as far as we can, otherwise the client is going to say no.”

Drew McLellan:

And unfortunately I think what happened is coming out of the recession, agencies and clients had gotten used to doing it without research. And so I think it’s a long, slow climb back to getting agency people and clients to think about ways to do research. And so one of the ways, and this is what you and I are going to focus our conversation on today. One of the ways agencies can begin to fold back into their own shop, the idea of doing research. And one of the ways they can ease a client into thinking that they should pay for research is to do some of it on the DIY side and to experiment with it at least to give both the internal team and the client, a taste of what information and insight and data can do to a campaign.

Matt Seltzer:

You nailed everything I think about everyday. That’s exactly right. And it’s a crime.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. For sure. So the first thing I think some listeners are going to think about is, and I’m guessing that you think about it given you own a research company, is DIY research legit? Or do we always have to pay a researcher like you to do the research? So how do we justify that internally and with clients?

Matt Seltzer:

So first of all, I’ll be the first to tell you if you’re doing any marketing, anytime, especially creative campaigns, if you do research beforehand, and I’m just going to [inaudible 00:09:49], it’s going to be better. Your clients are going to notice it, the quality is going to be there. I say that because that’s research in general, you know what you’re talking about what I do, when I partner with agencies, [inaudible 00:10:02]. But if you’ve never even tried research before, even just to hop into the [inaudible 00:10:05] is going to get you way further than you ever thought possible.

Matt Seltzer:

So to answer your question, is DIY research legit? Absolutely. Again, I work in complex surveys and I’m doing data analysis and I say all that because that’s that’s Cadillac. Separately, let’s say you sent your entire account management team and also you’re creative director. And let’s say you’re doing any customer facing client, QSR restaurant, just picking something. If you spent a day sitting in the restaurant, just taking notes, observing, you’re going to learn something. There’s no question in my mind. You’re going to [crosstalk 00:10:40].

Drew McLellan:

No doubt about it. Right.

Matt Seltzer:

Yeah. That’s going to make your marketing better. That observation process is DIY research, right there. It’s the entry level but separately, I mean, how many creative directors don’t even get to see the clients that they’re actually creating an ad for. You take the time to do this and then separately and I’ll just say, let’s say you send three people into a client and you’re there for four hours. Well, that’s 12 billable hours. So there’s pluses on both sides of it that it’s revenue and it’s going to make that final product stronger.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So what are the kinds of research that you see agencies doing on their own that you think are particularly effective and should be in our consideration set?

Matt Seltzer:

Talking to people. That’s number one. We used to call that focus groups and that’s still a term. There’s also a term called in-depth interviews, IDIs.

Drew McLellan:

Or customer intercepts.

Matt Seltzer:

Yeah. Those are the complex terms. But to answer your question, you’re talking to people. I know more and more agencies who were just soliciting customers to come into their creative strategy meeting and they just talk to them. There is no strategy beyond… When I do run a focus group, I’m thinking about the entire psychology behind it. You don’t have to go that deep. Just sitting and talking to your customers and customers are willing to talk these days. You can even do it on Zoom. You’re going to learn more, but I’m seeing more and more agencies doing exactly that and then they take that and that’s what goes into their creative room.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. When I was still on the copywriting side of the business before I started my own shop, one of the things I used to love to do was sit behind the glass in a focus group. And for me, what I was listening for was word choice. When a customer talks about the product or service, what words do they use to describe it? And is there a pattern in the language because then you could mimic that pattern in the ad so that you were using that native speak. And so you’re right. I think there’s a lot that can be learned just by having some conversations.

Matt Seltzer:

Absolutely. And you guys you nailed the language component. I just did a project recently. We did a bunch of focus groups where we… I always produce what I call a messaging memo and it’s, these are the words you’re going to use. I want to make sure these work their way into copy because they resonate, they eviscerate something big in the mind of who you’re trying to reach.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So okay. So we’re recording this at the end of January, it’s still COVID. So some people in today’s world, walking up to somebody at the mall or at a car dealership or something else may not be as welcome as it was. I mean, I’m sure we’ll get back to that. So what are some other ways that you see agencies doing DIY research that yields insights for them?

Matt Seltzer:

So I’m a huge survey guy. I like surveys. And there’s so many simple tools. If you can run any SEO campaign, frankly if you can program anything into a website or just even a design software. I say this because the survey software now is that simple. It’s made to be that simple. SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics. Those are the two that I use a lot. But I know a lot of agencies that are implementing these pretty cost effective tools. Let’s say you’ve never run a survey in your life. These tools also have templates to walk you through a five question survey and my favorite part is they also have a tool to go get survey responses. SurveyMonkey, for instance, has a thing called SurveyMonkey Audience. You can go get 100 responses in two hours. And five question survey. You have five questions about language. You want to give the right word to your copywriting team. You can have that data at two hours.

Matt Seltzer:

So I’m seeing more and more agencies doing that stuff. Incidentally, I’m seeing more and more taking it a step further. And I shouldn’t say more, more, this is probably about a quarter of the industry who are taking advantage of this customer experience. We talked about that being a big piece. I just listened to an interview you had with Judy Walters about customer experience.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. She’s awesome.

Matt Seltzer:

Absolutely. That whole conversation blew me away. And as I was listening to her, I was thinking, well, how many businesses have a customer experience plan in place? Or maybe they’re even just thinking about it. Again, let’s use a QSR code, a QSR example. How many restaurants do you go to where they print out on the receipt? “Hey, take our survey. Here’s the link.” Well, I’m seeing more agencies take that survey in-house. And it’s not super complex. They’re managing a process. They implement it. But on the flip side, there’s two components to that. One is they’re going to spend about probably eight hours a month analyzing that and implementing, well that’s billable hours. And separately, you do that for 12 months. With 12 months, it comes down to planning season. You’ve got 12 months to CX data. So I’m seeing that a lot and it makes a ton of sense.

Drew McLellan:

So I’m curious when a retailer puts the take the survey on the bottom of the receipt, how many people actually take that survey?

Matt Seltzer:

It’s pretty low. We’re just talking numbers. It’s about two and a half to 5% on a good day.

Drew McLellan:

And mostly are they annoyed? Is it mostly the angry customers that do it?

Matt Seltzer:

It’s two components. It’s either the angry customers. They have something to say or you see really high, we’re doing awesome numbers. And it’s because they’re incentivizing employees to tell people to take the survey. And the only people who they’re incentivizing are the ones who they think are going to get good ratings where I’ve seen the most unbiased success. And this goes back to agencies is to actually put a signage in your storefronts. And then you could even think of this as not from a B2B standpoint, put signage out of the equation and just do an email blast. But again, you’re managing that. And the strongest way that I found to get responses is to incentivize with a contest once a month, we’re giving away 100 dollars Starbucks gift card and something about that, you’ve got this illustrious prize. It’s pretty big. I’ve gotten more closer to five to 10% response. And that’s from passing by, like I said, I’m using signage and emails. So it gets there.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So let’s talk a little bit about bias. So one of the reasons why agencies often tend to use professionals is because they have a skillset that allows us to have confidence in the data. If we’re doing our own survey, let’s say, how do we as lay people try and eliminate as much bias as we can inside the tool?

Matt Seltzer:

So anything with research, I always preach brainstorms. I like bringing minds together to look at that, to look at any problem that you’re trying to solve. Let’s say you’re writing a survey. Your agency has never done a survey before. Same thing if you’re in a focus group or writing a questionnaire, you write up a draft and then go through it with your team, try to brainstorm how you think people will answer these questions. Not necessarily what you’re trying to learn, but actually how people will answer these questions. I’ve had [inaudible 00:17:30] surveys just to see how they would respond to it. And you start to see those things. The other thing I always tell people with brainstorms, have you ever heard of a pre-mortem?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Matt Seltzer:

That’s one of my favorite concepts. So let’s go into our brainstorm saying, okay, it’s two weeks from now, our survey failed. Why did it fail? And you’re going to strengthen the components there. I will say the most important piece of this. And this goes to any part of research. We’re trying to learn. When you’re an agency, you’re trying to gather insights. That’s different from validating what you think you know. And that goes again, back to your survey where you’re writing a survey that, let’s say you had a product and there’s two questions. One is, how do you think about this product? The other question is, tell me what you love about this product. You can see right there but it’s very easy to write the second one into a survey without thinking. And then again, you go back to your pre-mortem, you get your brainstorm together and you start to solve those problems before they hit the market.

Drew McLellan:

And so let’s say you want to know what they love about the product, is the fix of the bias to simply ask the opposite question as well, which is, “What do you not like? Or would you like to see changed about the product?” Does that then give you both sides of the equation or are both of those bias questions?

Matt Seltzer:

Both of those would be bias questions.

Drew McLellan:

So if I want to know what they love, how do I ask it in a non-biased way?

Matt Seltzer:

Sure. All right. I’m going to take you back a couple steps here. So [crosstalk 00:19:05] buyer personas. That’s a research component. That’s something [inaudible 00:19:10] you produced in recently but I like for some of the things they map out who we’re trying to talk to, what they spell out. But let’s take the framework of buyer persona. And I put that back into how I’m going to design my questions. I don’t want to ask you, what do you love or hate, or even what you to think about this product. I want to ask you, what do you love about products and then funnel the next series of questions into, “Well, how did you find out about products.”

Matt Seltzer:

And what we’re doing here is just like in buyer persona, we’re telling a story, but we’re telling a story by asking a story, letting them fill in the questions for us or fill in the answers for us. So the answer to the bias question is I try to take myself as far back as possible, and instead of trying to match some component of the journey. And I might not even know what questions to ask at that point, because for all I know, they don’t love products like I’m selling. They don’t even think about products like I’m selling. But some way shape or form. I know I can connect them to my product. What does that journey look like? And that’s when I’m exploring research. I [crosstalk 00:20:07] that’s a super holistic answer.

Drew McLellan:

So is the fact that in your mind you were thinking that people taking the survey were prospects to buy the product. But if let’s say it’s a customer survey, now is it bias if I ask them what they love or don’t like about the product or now that I know they’re a consumer of the product, does that reduce the bias?

Matt Seltzer:

Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. You hit the right ground. And now we’re talking CX, which is totally relevant to that. Yeah. You do want to know what people love and hate. The only thing I will tell you, and this is where… Research is fluid. Let’s say you ask people what they love and they hate you do that for three months. And you just see, you’re not getting the data that you want. You’re not getting those insights, go back and reach more. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Just tweaking to get it closer to what you think we need to be asking. The thing I always tell people with DIY research especially, just start. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed and say let’s spend a year tweaking this. Let’s get in the deal. And the first case is terrible. Great. Now you know what to do next month to make it better.

Drew McLellan:

So are you suggesting that one of the things agencies should do, is it better to do one longer survey or piece of research or is it better to do shorter, more episodic pieces of research? And does it matter who you’re talking to to answer that question?

Matt Seltzer:

I’d say it’s going to change from case to case and goal to goal. I like longer research. I like it for a lot of reasons. Again, I work with big agencies and I’m always trying to think, “Well, how else can we bolster revenue?” That’s not the only thing. That’s a big thing. And so a longer project, let’s say we do a 12 months of CX data. Well, that’s 12 months. I mean, that’s a great thing from a data standpoint, from a knowledge standpoint, you can measure trends over time, which is especially good if you’re going to be asking questions about did you see our digital ads? Did you can see our billboards and you could measure that. But separately I work with a lot of teams who just want to focus on research, really in-depth research for the pits. And that’s obviously not something you’re going to be long-term but something you are going to dive deep but it’s still such an important component.

Matt Seltzer:

And especially nowadays, I’ve seen a lot of agencies who they go after an industry that they’ve never worked in before. And their solution is to find a partner who’s an expert in that. And I think that’s a great strategy, and makes some good sense. But especially now, where everything’s different. Everything’s different from what the expert [inaudible 00:22:39] a few years ago and separately clients also just appreciate seeing research. I can speak to that for hours. Let’s say you’re going into a pitch. And you say, this was the steps we took to learn about your audience, learn about their journey. And this is how we use that to come up with our pitch that we’re about to present to you. That’s a one-time thing but it’s a wow moment and again, I’ll go back and that pitch is going to be even stronger.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. One of the biz dev strategies, and I’ve seen a lot of agencies deploy that clients always love is even if they’re just man on the street interviews or they get some customers and they bring them in and they do some interviews and they weave those interview comments through the pitch, right? So it’s not only what we think but let’s listen to what Sarah now says about your product, or let’s listen to what Babbette now says about your product. So even that can I think be pretty compelling from a statistically valid, maybe not because you only talked to eight people, but in terms of being able to tell the story can be very powerful.

Matt Seltzer:

So that’s the other side of the coin where now you’re nailing where I think smaller agencies are at a disadvantage without having this research component because you’re absolutely right. If you don’t have a big agency, their research team is going to pull those quotes and it wows clients. And again, if you’re a small agency you’ve never done that. You don’t have that component but here you and I are talking, none of this is that tricky. Don’t get me wrong. It takes time. And I’ve worked in agencies long enough to know that 24 hours isn’t enough in the day. But yes, this is the nature of it but it’s powerful. So it’s powerful from two sides. One, you really will if you talk to 10 people or 10 people say the same words over and over, and you put that in your copy, your copy is going to be strong. But separately I’ve had a lot of great mentors and agencies who told me if you want a client’s business, you need to be able to tell them something they don’t know about their own biscuits.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Matt Seltzer:

And a customer insight that direct from their own customers will blow their minds. It always will.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. So I want to take a quick break, but when we come back, I want to get back to the frequency issue because I have a lot of agencies who want to do either employee or client satisfaction surveys, and they wrestle with how often to do them and the survey fatigue, if you will that happens over time. So let’s take a break and then we’ll come back and talk about that.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there you know I am incredibly grateful that you listen every week. And I want to make sure you get all of the support and tips and tricks and hacks that we have to offer. In every issue of our newsletter, I tell you what’s on my mind based on the conversations I’ve had with agency owners that week. We also point you to additional resources and remind you of anything we’ve got coming up that you might benefit from. If you are not subscribed to our newsletter now, we can fix that in a flash. Head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com/newsletter and complete the simple form. And we’ll take it from there. All right, let’s get back to the show.

Drew McLellan:

All right, we’re back. And Matt and I are talking DIY research for agencies. And before the break, I said that I wanted to chat about this idea of frequencies. So a lot of agencies either want to take a pulse of their employees. So they’re using TINYpulse or some tool like that, or SurveyMonkey, as you mentioned before, to just check to see how happy their employees are. On the flip side, they also want to do some client satisfaction surveys and aren’t sure about the frequency. So a lot of times I’ll have an agency say, well we were sending out client satisfaction surveys every quarter or after every project wrapped or something. And we got great response the first couple of times, but then after that, it started to peter out. So is there a fatigue factor and how do we anticipate what that factor might be before we decide on the cadence of research we do.

Matt Seltzer:

So fatigue is a very real thing, especially if you’re talking to the same people over and over and over. What I would argue though, I guess something to think about with frequency is going back to what are you going to do with your data? And here’s a good example. I really think of research as this scientific component of what we do as agencies. And you think, this is going to be a round about answer. Part of research is measuring ad effectiveness. And so let’s say you measure a billboard for six months, you see how it performed and then it didn’t perform very well. Well, you need to make changes from there and then measure it again to see if the changes work. So going back, let’s say, you’re sending out a client satisfaction survey quarterly, and I’m just picking something and you get your responses. Let’s say you get responses at five days. And you’ve got basically two and a half months to send out your next survey.

Matt Seltzer:

Well, what are you going to do with the responses from the previous one? And you’ve even talked about this on your show. Let’s say my clients love my agency. They think everyone’s great. They can’t get my receptionist on the phone. That’s a pain point and you see that in the data over and over. Well, if you know you’re going to send out another survey in three months or two and a half months in this case, what can you do for your receptionist in those two and a half months because now it’s experiments on. You want to change stuff and see what works and to think about that, if you say, well, I could never make something meaningful with my receptionist in three months. Great. Now, you realize you’re probably surveying too frequently. Let’s make it six months and we’re going to do six months of experiments. So it goes back to the experiment process in between.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think it also goes back to one of the conversations I have with agency and owners all the time is when we do client satisfaction surveys on behalf of agencies, we insist that they in their letter saying, “Hey, people from AMI, a third party are going to call you and ask you about our service because we want to get better [inaudible 00:28:41].” We insist that they include the sentence, “We will report back to you what we learned and what we’re going to change as a result of what we learned.” Because I think one of the reasons why people stop taking surveys is because they don’t see anything change. So then they’re like, “I’m giving you my time and your bills are formatted the exact same way that I’ve told you four times I hate.”

Drew McLellan:

But if I got an email from the agency president saying, “Thanks so much for doing the survey. We love that you think we are media rockstars and that our placements get you more exposure and more action than any other agency you’ve worked for. But we heard that our invoices are challenging to you. And so as of next month, the invoices are going to look like this and we sure hope that solves the problem but we hope that you will let us know if it did or didn’t in the next survey that we’re going to send out in a quarter or whatever.” And what we’ve found is the simple act of actually listening and then reporting that you listened and what you’re going to do about it begins to at least elongate the fatigue factor. Do you find that to be true?

Matt Seltzer:

You absolutely nailed it. And that goes back to why are people getting fatigued? Because I think they’re just answering, they’re jumping through hoop. It’s not doing anything. And there was a great line I used to use all the time that surveys are more than report cards. We think of it. Okay, good. I got all A’s. I got A’s and B’s. We’re going okay. We’re marketers. If you were to tell me, “Hey, I’m going to go talk to all your clients, all your customers. I’m going to peek inside their head and figure out what makes them tick.” You just want a letter grade, an A or F to find out if you’re doing okay. You can learn so much more and do something with it.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. Right. So I’m curious, if an agency wants to sort of embark upon a research project with a client, and that’s not something that the client has done before, how do you recommend the agency approach the client to talk to them about the… Assuming there’s going to be a cost to this obviously.

Matt Seltzer:

Sure.

Drew McLellan:

How does the agency best approach a client about wanting to add to the budget, maybe add to the timeline but hopefully obviously get better results.

Matt Seltzer:

So results are the answer to that actually is, if that’s what you’re going to focus on. I feel like a little better agency podcast nerd for saying this but I’ve heard this on the podcast too, that clients really still think of us as the creative, sexy, exciting. We’re doing different stuff. So if I say, “Hey, I’m going to go talk to 500 of your clients by survey, or I’m going to go conduct some focus groups and it’s going to make our marketing better.” That’s not going to resonate with the client. But if you can tell them, “We need to create better messaging. I’m going to use that into our content strategy. And step one, we don’t know what goes into that messaging. So we need to go talk to people.” Now you’re selling this creative, exciting, interesting thing that we’re known for but separate from that, you genuinely will learn those insights.

Matt Seltzer:

But it’s about focusing on that process. Again, I mentioned buyer personas. I like buyer personas. Clients can understand buyer personas, especially if they understand creative groups. If they understand creative groups, I say, well, buyer personas, similar concept but we’re trying to figure out who we’re talking to in our market. And then through that process to say, “Great, how are you going to figure out those answers?” “Well, we’re going to go ask?” And now you’ve sold research. You’ve sold the concept of we’re going to spend hours exploring and learning. And the result is going to be a map that you’re going to read, new clients are going to be able to see but you know that our entire team is thinking this way.

Matt Seltzer:

So when we put together a press release or a content piece or an outdoor campaign, we’re not just doing it for posterity to say, “”We’re marketing.” We’re saying, “We talked to 300 of your best customer,” which we’re going to call that person Susie. “And Susie loves your product so much. And she finds your product through outdoor camp.” We know this. We’ve tested. So this is why we’re putting this into that. And she’s looking for outdoor campaigns, specific call to actions because people are paying that. So these are her payments. Again, this comes back to the really marketing one-on-one the holistic side of it. But right now I see enough agencies doing this exact process, except they’re not filling it in with the answers from the actual research. They’re thinking it through but they’re not actually going out talking to customers because it takes time and money. But clients now recognize there is a value to that component. And if they spend a month conducting this, next month’s work is going to be even better.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So it’s really about talking about the delivery of better, faster results.

Matt Seltzer:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

So it’s a little bit of a measure twice cut once mentality. Right?

Matt Seltzer:

Absolutely. Going back to the 2001 thing we were talking about too, one of the difficult parts of research is that inherently, it’s not a revenue driver for your clients. You think about if I put out a press release for my client, my client will get their clients to call them and say, “Hey, I saw your release.” They can see the motion. Friends, family, businesses comes through when you do ads. If I spend a month conducting research, that right there does not bring more business to them. And that brings a cost question in. That brings up an efficiency question in. But separately, you spend the time doing that, all the pieces after that work better. So it’s that short-term versus long-term thinking and you’re right. We’re in a different mindset now than 2008. I think everyone didn’t necessarily come back. But now, especially it’s a new horizon. We don’t even know what people want anymore.

Drew McLellan:

Right? Well, and I have always thought we have to be very careful about assumptions. And I think right now, even more so, because I think people are either depending on, my observation is depending on where the person themselves are at. Either they are on the one end of the spectrum, they haven’t left their home since last March. They’re still having all their groceries delivered. They wear a mask in their own house or people who are like, “I’ve been flying for a while. I’m still being safe. I’m using a mask. I’m social distancing but I’m back in the world.” That’s a big spectrum. And I think whatever your lens is on how the world is responding to COVID, it impacts what you assume everybody else is doing, of course they’re not all doing the same thing you are wherever you are on that spectrum. Right?

Matt Seltzer:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

So I think now more than ever, I think is a time for agencies actually, maybe this is good news. I mean, maybe this is the right chance to begin to say to clients who can’t afford to assume right now the world is in such flux and your customers are amongst that flux. Let’s really find out what they’re thinking or your prospects. Let’s find out what they’re thinking before we drop a lot of money on a campaign or on media or on whatever, let’s really, double-check our assumptions.

Matt Seltzer:

Absolutely. And that’s going to be the future, especially when you think about segmentation. When we think of segmentation is men versus women or young versus old but now it’s going to be comfortable with masks versus not comfortable with masks. And its psychographics. I will say though just to get agencies thinking about different ways to use research. Again, we say [inaudible 00:36:23] revenue driver, or maybe it’s about building a better campaign underlying. But again, I conduct secondary research which for those who don’t know, that’s where you take existing information and condense it into one component. I think surveys, [inaudible 00:36:38] focus groups. But I go with this because there’s a lot of ways to make that work for other marketing tactics. A good example, let’s say you conduct a survey of your industry or a focus group or something like that, or even secondary research where you take a couple of expert opinions. And we republish that as a white paper.

Matt Seltzer:

Well, you and I both know white papers that plays out in public relations, that plays out in content marketing but it’s predicated by a research component, which if you’re a big agency with an in-house research team, it’s the same as asking them, “Hey, can you conduct a survey for us [inaudible 00:37:10]?” Without that piece, you’re not even thinking that way as a small midsize agency. Separately, I’ve had some great luck with, I’ve worked with a few digital teams. Their whole goal is they want engagement on a web page. They want time on a page and all these survey software as I mentioned, let you embed the survey into your website. So if someone’s spending 10 minutes completing a survey, that’s time on page, that’s clicks, it’s genuine engagement. You have tools even, I didn’t mention this one, Typeform. Typeform is a survey software but it’s also a lead gen tool because it will then custom redirect people to different landing pages based on how they answered your survey.

Drew McLellan:

Interesting.

Matt Seltzer:

[crosstalk 00:37:50] content marketing. But you’re not going to be able to do that unless you’re even thinking about surveys.

Drew McLellan:

Right. What do you think the misperceptions are? So if an agency is listening to us and they’re saying, “You know what? We haven’t even thought about doing our own research or dipping our toe in that water.” What do you think the misperceptions are that we have that keep us from doing more of that ad hoc on the fly research that you and I have been talking about?

Matt Seltzer:

Well, it’s too hard would be the answer. And I’ve said this a few times. I do complex data analysis and I pivot all my information, I ID all kinds of statistical analysis. And I’m making it sound complex intentionally because that is the perception that that’s the only way to do research. If we’re going to do it, we live in a time where advanced statistics and data visualization is the norm. So if you’re not doing that, you’re doing research firm. And I disagree with that. I think agencies… You’re right. I mean, that’s a great way to think about the Cadillac, but you can start now. You have the experience, you being an agency, you being a client team, an account manager, you know enough to observe 10 customers and take something away from you. You know enough to present what you learned to your client. It won’t be the advanced data visualization that we’re talking about.

Drew McLellan:

And you’re not going to present it as statistically valid research. Right?

Matt Seltzer:

Correct.

Drew McLellan:

So part of it is painting it with the proper brush of what it is.

Matt Seltzer:

Agreed.

Drew McLellan:

But what I’m hearing you say is it doesn’t mean you don’t learn something.

Matt Seltzer:

Yeah. Correct. And you facilitate learning and marketing create better marketing. It’s a simple equation but I’ve never seen that not work, that process.

Drew McLellan:

Is there a type of research that we lay people should not touch? Is there any research or if there’s anything or a question we’re trying to answer that is just like, “No, you got to let the professionals do that.”

Matt Seltzer:

Don’t answer the question you don’t feel competent answering. I know that’s not necessarily the answer. I’ve helped some PR firms for instance, implement some research, [inaudible 00:40:04]. They like talking to people. They don’t like numbers. They don’t like doing the data. Separately I’ve helped some digital teams implement surveys. They like data. They like looking at it. But when you’re saying? “Hey, go talk to people.” And that’s just not their forte.

Drew McLellan:

Right. They’re not leaving the dark room. Right?

Matt Seltzer:

Yeah. And research is about, at least when you’re starting out, going with your sprint. There’s always the optimum strategy. And that’s again, I’ll say the Cadillac but go with the strategy to learn that you feel confident with because there’s a reason you work in the tactics or the field or the side of marketing that you do, the research pieces are going to compliment this.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. All right. So as we’re wrapping up this conversation, what haven’t I asked you that I should have asked? Is there a place where agencies get into trouble? Is there a place that agencies trip over something that we should as… Because now everyone’s like, yes, I’m going to go do research. So before we send them out to query the world, to observe the world, are there any cautionary tales or suggestions that you have so that they don’t stub their toe?

Matt Seltzer:

Actually, I have a great cautionary tale but it’ll answer that. So one of the very first big research projects I did working at an in-house team, I was so excited for this. I pulled as much secondary information as I could, mountains and mountains. And I wrote this 20 page report that answered every single question you could possibly have about going after this market. And the president of the company, the agency, wrote me back, maybe 15 minutes later and says, “This is great. It is way too long.” And since then, I’ve learned much more from that. But I very rarely now present data to people. I rarely hand anyone up a document that’s longer than two pages. If I’m presenting, I try to present in this layman’s terms as possible. And so to answer your question, it’s very easy to want to share this big thing in this complex way, because it is big and complex. That’s not what agency teams need nor is it fines.

Matt Seltzer:

I mentioned buyer personas again, it’s not… One of the reasons I love buyer persona is that’s a one to two page document that summarizes everything that I learned in my research. Someone doesn’t want to hear the nuances of the data and how I compared and contrasted X and Y. They want to know what does it mean for marketing and the persona spells that out for them. Now it doesn’t have to be a persona. It could be a two page summary. It could be just three bullets that say, “You must remember these things.” But the research process can be complex, especially if you started looking at all the information out there but what you turn it into must be concise.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and it seems like from a marketing perspective, what we need to care about the most is the insights that come from the data as opposed to the data itself. Yes, you need to have the data underneath it if you have to explain how you got to the inside. But from a client’s perspective, and even from a creative team’s perspective, as they’re trying to take what you’ve learned and put it into the creative product, what they really need to know is what does this mean?

Matt Seltzer:

Yeah. That’s absolutely right. There’s the term actionable insights. That’s what you need. You can’t just tell someone something interesting. You have to say why it’s interesting because of the next step they can take. But none of that tells… And if someone asked, “How’d you learn that?” You can answer the data questions behind it but that’s not the lead in that even shouldn’t even be the focus. It’s the next step? What does that deliverable look like? Because your audience, again, if your audience is your client, you need to tell them something they don’t know. And that comes back to a quote or a phrase, or if it’s your creative team or your media team, you need to give them the spark so they know how to run with it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Great insight. A great way to wrap the conversation as people are now fired up to go do this. So Matt, thanks for being on the show. If folks want to learn more about you, more about your work? What’s the best way for them to connect with you directly?

Matt Seltzer:

Absolutely. My website is s2research.com. So that’s S, like Sam, the number two research.com. I have all my contact information on there, LinkedIn, email, you can even schedule a meeting with me if anyone’s ever looking for a consultation just to learn what I have going on. I also have a really active blog on there. I speak at a lot of conferences. And so I do that virtually these days. So whenever I do that, I try to share the videos on there. So just a lot of content information at s2research.com. That would really genuinely be the best way to get in touch with me. Also I love talking on LinkedIn. You can find me, so LinkedIn [inaudible 00:44:57] Matthew Seltzer but same thing. There’s a link on my website too.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Awesome. So we’ll put a link to your website in the show notes, for sure. Any last parting thoughts that you want to share with everybody before we let you go?

Matt Seltzer:

Yeah, the only other thing, and I’ll just reiterate start. It’s real, real easy to get intimidated by this stuff. And I get that. Start with the thing that you’re confident about. Even if you’re just doing it internally to build credibility for your own brand and build from there. It goes quicker than you think. And my favorite part is the results genuinely are better. You produce better marketing and your clients see that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And ultimately that’s the plan, right? That’s what we got to do. Yeah.

Matt Seltzer:

Absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

This has been great. Thanks so much for your time.

Matt Seltzer:

Thank you, Drew. I appreciate it.

Drew McLellan:

You bet. All right guys, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Want to remind you that our next workshop is called Running Your Agency for Growth and Profit. It is April 6th and 7th in Chicago. And we are going to talk about all things behind the curtain. So not what you do for clients but the business of running your business and the best practices and metrics that you should be using as a savvy agency owner around that. So that is always a lively dialogue, rich workshop, lots of conversations. Lots of you’ve got to be kidding me, Drew conversations. So we’d love to have you there with us if you are ready to travel. You can learn more about it on the Agency Management Institute website, under the how we help. And then you’ll see workshops and you’ll see Running Your Agency for Growth and Profit. So I would love to see you there.

Drew McLellan:

In the meantime, I will be back next week with another guest to help you think a little bit differently about how to run your agency, give you some insights into something you’re doing that you could change or do different or a startup like Matt talked to us about today. What I love about this conversation today is all of you could go do something today or tomorrow, and maybe you practice on your own people for a while to get your comfort level up and to get your chops up. Maybe you do an employee satisfaction survey but remember what we talked about. If you’re going to do that, and you’re going to ask them to give you their time, you have to promise them that you’re going to tell them what you’ve learned and what you’re going to do as a result of what you learned.

Drew McLellan:

But there is no reason for any of you not to experiment a little bit with some DIY research, maybe even amongst your own clients. But this is an opportunity for us to get smarter. And I think one of the things that we know is the greatest value we bring to our clients and our team is that we keep learning. We keep getting smarter. And so here’s a great way for you to do that. And Matt outlined a bunch of different ways that you can explore that. So I hope you actually go do something with today’s conversation and put it into play. Huge shout out and thanks to our friends at White Label IQ, they are the sponsor of the podcast. And as always you know that if you’re looking for somebody to help you augment your team for PPC design or web dev, they’re your guys. So head over a whitelabeliq.com/ami to get the special pricing that they have just for you.

Drew McLellan:

All right, I’ll be back next week. In the meantime, thanks so much for giving us your time for listening and as always, I’m at [email protected] if you’re trying to track me down. All right. Talk to you next week.

Drew McLellan:

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Build a Better Agency. Visit Agency Management Institute.com to check out our workshops, coaching packages and all the other ways we serve agencies just like yours. Thanks for listening.