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Do-It-Yourself Market Research
Networking Redux
Beginning A New Season
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August 2009
ADM logoRain, Rain, Go Away
July may have set the record for rain--certainly in our neck of the woods. Some places around the country are struggling with flooding. (Isn't that supposed to happen in the Spring?)
Well, don't we all complain about the weather? It's never just right--except for a couple of times last month when I went sailing from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. The sun was warm, the breezes were delicious, and there were a few puffy, white, pretty clouds. Those days were darned near perfect.
At the end of this month, we're off to Lake Tahoe, one of my favorite vacation sites. Then, it's the start of a new "season." I hope your summer has been fun and productive!
Do-It-Yourself Market Research
The ACDT Syndrome 
Nowadays, with a number of Internet-based survey products available, some businesses are deciding to conduct surveys in-house, rather than hire a consultant or research firm. These "do-it-yourself" researchers are often thinking about the least costly way to obtain market information in order to guide or justify their marketing activities. However, I believe there is something more insidious at work. It's the "Anyone Can Do That (ACDT) Syndrome." 
The ACDT Syndrome's underlying philosophy denies the idea that there is a professional competency and even talent that differentiates one provider of service from another. I think most people are subject to this kind of thinking at various times, and for various situations. Plumbing? Gardening? Interviewing? Writing a press release? Writing a questionnaire? Preparing ad copy? Representing yourself in court? Ultimately, it depends on the value placed on a job well done. But first, one must know the difference between a professionally done job and one that is amateurish.
This scenario presents yet another challenge to professional marketing and research consultants (as well as other kinds of professional services firms and consultants)-demonstrating or persuading clients that an in-house job might as well be an out-house job.  Sometimes we must show that, in fact, there IS a difference between research conducted by a member of the marketing department who may not have much experience in this discipline and one conducted by a firm or consultant with lots of training and experience.   The experienced researcher can provide a number of benefits:
  • Reliable sampling
  • Questions that are unambiguous and relevant
  • Attributes that are appropriate, differentiated, and in the proper syntax
  • Data collection that is done correctly (garbage in, garbage out!)
  • Perhaps most importantly, independent analyses
Recently, I wrote about the risks of not conducting research at all. In the case of the ACDT Syndrome, the risk is even greater. If a company does no research at all, it is not going "gentle into that good night" (apologies to Dylan Thomas); it is flying blind. But at least no money was spent. A company that attempts DIY research is spending some money (sometimes, several thousand dollars), believing the results are valid, and possibly making a big mistake. So the next time you or your clients are tempted to "do it yourself," think about whether you would fix your car, diagnose your plumbing, or go into court by yourself. Some folks do, and nothing awful happens. Then there's everyone else.
You can find a downloadable and printable version of this article at:

Networking Redux

So Many Meetings, So Little TimeMan & woman handshake 

Most businesspeople get so many invitations to networking groups and professional organizations, they could be going to meetings every morning, noon, and evening. How does one choose?

First, you must decide whether networking is important to your business and/or career. In case you are still ruminating on this issue, the answer is "YES!" If you weren't sure about it last year, the past twelve months should have told you that NO job is so secure that it can't benefit you to be out in your business community, meeting people. I can tell you from personal experience that you never know where your next lead is coming from. Here are some things to consider when deciding which meetings to attend, which organizations to join, and which ones to pass up.
  • You must determine your objectives for networking: looking for a job, starting a business, developing or expanding a business, or looking for professional comaraderie and partnering opportunities?
  • Is the sponsoring organization industry-focused, and if so, is it an industry in which you would like to do business?
  • Is the sponsoring organization local, regional, national or international? (The latter two categories could give you more reach and more services.)
  • Will you be "in the room" with many competitors or will there be more contacts for you?
  • Do you already know someone in the group, or will you be going solo for a while? If the latter, how comfortable are you with that? 
  • If there is a speaker, is the topic of interest to you? Can it be helpful to your business or your job?
  • How large is the specific meeting or the sponsoring group in total? Small group or large: it can cut either way, depending on your personal style, your objectives for networking, and who is there.
  • Is the cost of the meeting worth it? Is it likely to provide good VALUE?
I think it is best to keep an open mind. After you have used the points above to screen out meetings and organizations that are clearly not consistent with your business or networking objectives, try different groups a few times to see if they work for you. Give them a real chance, but don't stay too long if you see the group does not have the right contacts or referral sources for you, or if the people are too "cliquey."
Some business networking groups are very demanding--if that works for you, go for it. If not, find another kind of networking group--there are surely enough from which to choose. Make sure the environment is comfortable--be true to yourself and the style that suits you best. Then, be as generous to those you meet as you would have them be to you. Be generous with referrals and introductions and it will come back to you.
Online networking, a different branch of the tree, is a terrific thing (perhaps a topic for another newsletter); face-to-face or voice-to-voice networking is more impactful. The bottom line is: get out there, extend your hand, smile a lot, and take plenty of business cards. Bon chance!
Upcoming Events--Beginning A New Season
August seems to be a time when people take off--either on vacation, or for planning meetings, or just to breathe. Here are some things for September--I'll probably repeat these next month, but if you want to explore and "save the date," here they are.
September 17   
Society of Marketing Professional Services-Long Island is holding its annual Golf Outing, which will benefit The Sarah Grace Foundation for Children With Cancer; at Stonebridge Golf Links & Country Club in Smithtown, LI.
For more information, contact Tracy Lobdell, or Harvey Bienstock,
September 22, 6:00pm-8:00pm
The New York Chapter of the American Marketing Association is presenting "From Corporate to Consultant,"  a panel discussion featuring Ilise Benun (Marketing Mentor), Mike Milis (MX2 Design Force), and Eileen Sutton (Sutton Creative). It will be held at the AMA offices, 116 E. 27th St., 6th Floor. Find out more about it at:
There are more events, but those details will be in next month's newsletter. I hope to see you at one of these events.
This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman