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Episode: 43 |
John Dranow:
Market Research:
Episode
43

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

John Dranow

Market Research

Show Notes

Our guest today is John Dranow, the CEO of Smart Revenue.

John’s firm has hundreds of trained, vetted field researchers available around the world, and his firm can help you fill in the data white spaces.

Big data can help us analyze in exquisite detail what is happening, but it is hard to know from the data what isn’t happening.

How many people walk by a store but don’t look at the window display?

How many people look at the window display but don’t enter the store?

How many people enter the store but don’t walk down the center aisle?

How many people walk down the center aisle but don’t buy your client’s product?

John’s team has a range of tools to help fill in these white spaces.  In our discussion we discuss field interviews, vision tracking goggles, how Panera might study a customer standing in line to order, and much more.

John’s firm does regularly work with boutique consulting firms as well as independent professionals – so if you have an upcoming project where this type of anthropological field work would provide compelling insight, check out his firm at www.smartrevenue.com

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Will Bachman: Our guest today is John Dranow, the CEO of a firm called SmartRevenue. John’s firm has hundreds of trained, vetted, field researchers available around the world, and his firm can help you fill in the data white spaces. Big data can help us analyze in exquisite detail what is happening. But it can be hard to know from the data what isn’t happening.
For example, how many people walk by a store but don’t look at the window display. Or if they look at the window display, how many people don’t walk in the store. Or if they walk in the store, how many people don’t walk down the center aisle. Or if they walk down the center aisle, how many people don’t buy your client’s product, or don’t even look at it.
So John’s team has a range of tools and researchers and observers to help fill in those white spaces. In our discussion, we discuss field interviews, vision tracking goggles, how Panera might study a customer standing in line waiting to order, and much more.
John’s firm does regularly work with boutique consulting firms as well as independent professionals. So if you have an upcoming project where this type of anthropological field work would provide compelling insight, check out his firm at www.smartrevenue.com. I enjoyed my discussion with John, and I hope you find it valuable. John, welcome to the show, it is great to have you on.
John Dranow: Thank you, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here.
Will Bachman: John, I’ve been really looking forward to this discussion because I’ve heard some great things about your firm and I’ve spoken to members of Umbrex who’ve worked with your firm. So I know that you’re kind of set up to partner with independent consultants on market research. And maybe to get started, could you give us the 10,000 foot overview of your firm and the services that you offer?
John Dranow: Sure. Where we operate, Will, is in what we call in a white space. Our position is that big data, it is bigger than ever. And big data quantifies the known transactions. It reads databases and produces more meaning from existing data than ever before. But what big data doesn’t do, and the data white space it leaves, big data doesn’t quantify what did not happen, and what we call the data white space.
Examples of that are if you take a store and the window in a store, how many people walk by the … How many people walk by that store and they don’t even look at it? Of those people who turn their head and look at the window, how many people look at the window and they don’t engage with the window? Or, if they do look at the window, did they go into the store? If they go into the store, did they browse and leave without buying? If you think about what didn’t happen or how many people go into whether it’s a grocery store, specialty retailer store. Or surf online and you look at something and you leave, what are all those reasons for deselection.
What we help our clients do is understand how deselection works, it creates, that leads to this data white space. The way we look at it is, for you and your listeners, you don’t get up in the morning and say, let me consider everything there is to consider. What you’ve done is you’ve deselected vast amounts of information in order to cope. So what we focus in on is what are those areas of deselection, how do those manifest themselves. And then, in effect, what can clients do to improve on the data white space.
The core strength that we have at SmartRevenue is we have the largest global field force of anthropologists or ethnographers in the world. We have over 1,200 anthropologists or ethnographers. And what an anthropologist or an ethnographer is, if you think back to your anthropology course back in college, it’s really about observing behavior without prejudgment. You observe what people do and then once they do what they do, then you ask them questions about what they do. There’s some technological enhancements, but anthropology and ethnography really goes back to observing human behavior and pattern recognition.
Will Bachman: So I kind of got the idea of the people walking by the store, and that’s fascinating. You certainly hear about online, companies are doing all that kind of stuff. How many visits to the website, but they didn’t buy. But it sounds like you’re doing that in the real world. Is that kind of your primary service offering, the people kind of walking by the store? Or are there other … and are you primarily just retail or are there other, other than the people walking by the store and not buying, are there other kinds of things that you would do? What are the three or four or five other categories that you might be in?
John Dranow: Well, if you think about decision making in anthropology, we work in retial of all retail channels. We work in manufacturing, we work in food service, all forms of food service from causal, fast casual to fine dining to understand and observe behavior in restaurants and observe for satisfaction.
But we also work in airports. There are a number of airports where you would walk in and you might be interviewed and it might be our ethnographic team. What we say is we are your eyes and ears at the point of purchase experience and consumption anywhere in the world. Our value proposition is if you need eyes and ears at the point of purchase experience and consumption, you would call us. There are many sources of self selected data and reported data.
But if you really want to understand what people are doing, what they’re saying, how they’re feeling, what they’re looking at, we do facial coding to do emotional reads. We do eye tracking to get a precise sense of what they’re looking at. We do dwell time, we understand where people are focusing and where they’re not. It’s really a kind of skill and competency that applies to many sectors. And it’s really about understanding the data that’s not showing up in any existing data source.
Will Bachman: Wow, that’s really cool. The eyes and ears at the point or purchase experience and consumption.
John Dranow: And consumption.
Will Bachman: Can you give me some examples of mandates that you would get? You talked about watching people passing by a retail store window. What would some other examples be?
John Dranow: We work for, and I’m not going to mention specific clients by name, but we work for one of the main, leading food service companies. And we help them develop their digital signage. They converted globally to digital signage. And one of the things that’s important with ethnography in a restaurant in digital signage is, what decisions are people making at various points away from the counter? So what decisions are made at 12 feet, 10 feet, 8 feet, 6 feet, 4 feet, 2 feet? And what are people looking at and how did they want the digital menus organized to drive a maximum satisfaction, and of course, maximum revenue.
So we would be able to observe people, we’d be able to do segmentation and really understand how the people are ordering. So it’s used for ordering, it’s used for … I use the example of a mall based retailer. But if you take a big food drug or mass retailer, one of the things that doesn’t happen anymore that it happened in our parent’s generation is people don’t go up and down the aisles of supermarkets the way they used to. What aisles are people going down and which ones are they bypassing.
Will Bachman: How has it changed? Say a little bit more about that, what my parents did versus what I’m doing today.
John Dranow: Once upon a time, I would say, in really, the good old days of advertising and retailing is that people would watch television, it would generally be women, and they would watch the daytime soap operas. And the soap operas would do exactly that, they would advertise soap and other products and create an awareness. And then mom would go to the local supermarket and she would get her cart and she would start on one side and she would go up one aisle and down the next aisle, and up and down until she was completed.
And right now, over well under 10% of shopping trips in a store are full aisle shops. People are pressed for time, they want to go down only the aisles that they want. And this creates both challenges and opportunities for the retailers and the manufacturers. If you’re going to put a lot of effort into an aisle, it’s very important that you get people to go down that aisle.
Will Bachman: Yeah, it sort of helps, I guess.
John Dranow: And so what we’re able to do is we’re able to quantify it. And one of the things about all of this is we do what we call is quantitative ethnography. Qualitative ethnography, you’re just observing behavior. But quantitative ethnography is you’re putting real numbers behind it.
For example, what percentage of the people go down a certain aisle who pass by the aisle? Of the people who go down the aisle, of the people who go down the aisle, how many people browse, how many touch the merchandise, and how many purchase. And then, how does that compare with other aisles, how does that compare with other retailers, and what are the financial implications.
Getting back almost to the mall based example, we’re able to say for our mall based clients that if you’re right now having a certain amount of people turn their head and look at the window, then you can presume that a certain number of people will go into the store and a certain number of those people will purchase.
And what in fact, is that worth? So we’re able to say that a quarter of a percent in head turning could result in maybe 40 to $50,000 increase and same store sales. As retailers are considering, should I invest in the window? Should I invest in this? And we’re able to produce the metrics that justify that ROI.
Will Bachman: Wow. One quarter of a percent of head turning.
John Dranow: Yes.
Will Bachman: I’d love to hear a little bit more about this digital signage in food service. So what I’m interpreting that is, in sort of regular person language is the menu, but it’s a digital menu behind the, when you walk into a fast food place. How in the world would you go about that of let’s say I’m walking into the store. So I’m walking in, maybe it’s a place that I haven’t been to before. What are you doing to observe me to intuit or figure out my thought process of how I’m figuring out the menu and deciding what to order? Are you kind of doing video of me or just have someone standing in a corner? What are you looking at? How does that work?
John Dranow: We’re observing you and then we’re interviewing you. The general quantitative ethnographic process is, you observe the person doing whatever they’re going to do and then you interview them. Let’s say you get in line in a fast food restaurant, and you’re really not engaged, you’re just sort of waiting your turn. You’re looking at your phone, you’re looking in other directions. There’s going to be a point where you really start to interact and engage with the menu.
What we’re going to do is we’re going to understand exactly by sector and demographic at what distance from the menu are you engaging. And then we’re going to interview you. We’re going to say, okay, now …
Will Bachman: You want to try it right now? Want to just …
John Dranow: Sure.
Will Bachman: Just let’s say, let’s say that you’ve just observed me walk into a Panera, a casual dining establishment, and I’ve just purchased my sandwich. And now you nab me and you say, “Hey, could we …” you tell me, maybe even what you would say. So I’ve just purchased it, I’m wandering, looking for a place to sit down. Tell me what happens now and we can role play this, you can actually ask me the questions and I’ll do my best to give my real answers.
John Dranow: What I’d like to do is ask you to recreate your experience. If we could return to the line where you were just at. At what point can you sort of show me where you started to engage with the menu? And then you’ll tell me, it was right about here. And then what did you do first? Did you choose your entrée first? Did you choose your beverage? Did you choose your dessert? What was your thought process and what did you see, what did you look at?
Now, I might ask you to put on some eye tracking glasses so that I can see exactly what you’re looking at. But what I’m going to do is have you either construct, if we’re doing it the first time, or reconstruct if you’ve done it after you’ve ordered. What was your process? So you say, “I ordered, I decided to order my entrée and then I went back and forth because I looked at my main entrée, but I also looked at the special, so I tried to calculate what was my best value proposition.”
And then as you got closer to the register, very interested in having you buy some impulsive items towards the end of your purchase. Did you do that and then even before that, when you came into the restaurant, did you know what you were going to order, or did you decide in the restaurant?
What we’re going to do is we’re going to, we could do it one of two ways. I could recruit you and I’d say, “I want you to shop as normally as you could,” and whether I have eye tracking glasses or not, I’m going to interview you as you go. Or, I could, after you’ve ordered, I could ask you to reconstruct it. Or I could ask you questions in line.
Will Bachman: And would you normally offer me some kind of compensation or how do you even approach me? I’m walking into this Panera and you are offering, hey, will you put on these eye tracking glasses and stuff … I’m like, whoa, dude. How do you approach the person so they aren’t freaked out and that they are happy to participate?
John Dranow: It’s a great question, and we’ve done well over a million observations and interviews. Over 50% of the people we’ve approached, which is well over 2 million people have said yes. And what you do is you have … We have the best educated, best trained ethnographers. They are, one of the things they would do if we came up to you in a store, we’d say, “We’re here with the permission of the retailer or the restaurant.” We’re here with permission and we have written credentials in case somebody wants to probe for that.
And then we, “That the restaurant or the retail operation would like to ask you some questions. The reason they want to ask you questions is they want to optimize your experience. They want you to have a great experience, so we’re going to ask you questions.” You tell them about how many minutes you expect. Generally, we plan for about 10 minutes. You can ask for 15 minutes. If you do something more in depth or longer, like 30 minutes, then you would ask people to sit down with you.
But in the 10 to 15 minute range, you would approach them and tell them it’s going to be 10 to 15 minutes. Now, within that, Will, you can ask about four closed end questions per minute. So that is yes or no questions, do you like this or that or multiple select. So about four closed end questions per minute. And then you can ask about one open ended question per minute, like say, “How many, did you really like this, or how easy was it to do that?”
Let’s say in a 10 minute question, if it’s all closed end, you can ask 40 plus questions and maybe an open end or two. And then, in most cases, we do give incentives. Some environments where people are really engaged, you don’t need to give incentives. If it’s like certain concerts where people really want to talk or airports where people are much more open to sharing information. But mostly, you give people an incentive. And even though there’s no guide to this, people have, I would say, what I call a dollar a minute clock. So if you say, I’m going to give you $10 for 10 minutes, people generally say yes. $15 for 15 minutes. The incentive is really, we basically pay about, calculate a dollar a minute.
Will Bachman: So you said people are more happy to talk in airports. Would this be talking about the different retail establishments inside the airport? Tell me about that? Is it just because they have time on their hands, they’re waiting for their fight? That was kind of interesting to me.
John Dranow: Yes, I think what you find in airports is once people are through security and they’re waiting for their flight, they’re feeling very safe at that point and they’re very receptive to talking with you. And the idea that you’d be interested in their opinion is something that people are going to be pretty receptive to doing. Whereas you have, let’s say in a grocery store and people are shopping and they’re trying to get out, particularly if they’re moms with kids or that kind of thing, then you’re going to have to make a better case for the person giving you their time.
Will Bachman: That makes sense. And boy, I hope that you’re doing some work in airports because it always strikes me how poorly run some of those retail establishments are, it just kills me. You’ll se a coffee shop with 30 people in line, and you’re thinking to yourself, if they just staffed an extra staffer there for 10 bucks an hour, they could sell another $300 worth of coffee.
John Dranow: This is an opportunity to speak to your consulting community here is that, often when a consultant comes into a new job, the obvious lever to push or pull is to cut costs. And then cut costs obviously will improve the expense metrics. But I think that what we always ask people to do is the ultimate goal, obviously, is to produce the maximum profit. So really understanding what are the requisite services that are going to drive customer satisfaction, repeat business and profitability.
Will Bachman: Now you said that you do work in airports, food service. You also mentioned manufacturing. What, you’d be working at a manufacturing plant or more for a manufacturer?
John Dranow: We work for manufacturers who sell to retailers and we work for retailers. Every imaginable retail channel, we work in. We’ve worked in every category. If you go right down to the grocery store, dairy, produce, pet food, laundry, health and beauty, over the counter. The manufacturers of these products, they’re very focused on staying relevant to their retail customers. So what they do is bring us on to help them with retail leadership. They’ll bring us on to help them help their retail customers to succeed. Then of course, the retailers work directly with us as well.
Will Bachman: You talked a bit about your methods. Tell me about, and without revealing any client confidential information, can you give me some examples of the types of insights that this type of work can surface?
John Dranow: Yes, I’ve certainly talked about the efficacy of different window displays. But a very straight down the middle on, which we’re doing for a major manufacturer right now in a major grocery retailer is, they have a current display that they’re offering. And they have five different alternatives of that display.
So the question really is, there’s a couple questions, which is, where in the store should that display be, what are the attributes of that display to be most impactful, and which of the displays is the most impactful. So we would do a test in control work where we would have, let’s say, in this case, we have one test cell and five … One control cell and five test cells.
So we’ll be able to say, for the control cell, how many people currently are walking by, how many people are observing who see this display, how many people who see it engage with it, how many people who engage with it purchase that. And then how does that specifically compare with the test cell. Which of the ones is going to be driving the most traffic to the displays? And then where should the display be, that is, how many people who walk by that display are aware of it and they notice it, and how many people walk right by it? So there’s great degree of variability between where you put a display in terms of some high value locations and lower value locations.
Will Bachman: That sounds like one type of decision that you’d help with would be the selection of display and where you’d put it. What other types of things might you do? Would it be the sound or the light of a retail store or whether they have a greeter at the front? Or the design of packaging or the height of the location of the shelf? Is it, all these different factors that you would be looking at depending on the project?
John Dranow: Yes, and it varies considerably. I’ll give you an example of where you can’t really generalize. One of the projects we did early on was in the cough cold area. And we were doing the work in the cough cold area and we were finding that the hot area was almost at the bottom of the shelf. That’s really like, you almost never want to be at the bottom of the, lower part of the shelf. So we looked at it and we went back and we tested it. And then what we realized is, again, true ethnography is when you’re sick, you tend to hang your head, you tend to look down. And your natural sight line is lower down on the shelf.
Conversely, when you’re going to the beach and you’re buying sun care, your eyes tend to be, you’re looking up, you’re optimistic and looking forward to the day at the beach. So the high value placement of your product is higher up in the shelf. So if you think about the range of things we would do in a store, and again, we do this in a real store and we do this now in the virtual environment is, where should you put your displays, where on the shelf should your products be to be optimized? Should they be in the middle of the, in the middle of the aisle or should they be at the entrance of the aisle?
One of the things that’s important to understanding that is, how planned is the purchase? So if you’re making a planned purchase, then what you’re willing to do, it’s something on your list, then you’re perfectly willing to walk to the middle of the aisle to purchase your item. And the, often what retailers and manufacturers will do is they’ll put the most popular items often to lead the aisle.
And what our suggestion often is, you really don’t need to do that. If you know that people are going to go into the store and go to the middle of the aisle, make them walk to the middle of the aisle. And then along the way to the middle of the aisle, then you can potentially inspire them to purchase other products.
Will Bachman: Every grocery store I’ve ever been in, for that sort of baking aisle, the flour’s always in the middle, on the lowest shelf. Because if I need four, the store knows I’m going to walk down the aisle and get the flour. And on the way, they try to sell me all the chocolate chips and the toppings and all this other kind of stuff that I might not have thought about. But they know I’m going to look for the salt, look for the flour, I need the stuff.
John Dranow: But to get to a different, to get to a different category, let’s focus on children’s art supplies. Children’s art supplies, how should those be best organized? Certainly by age, by development, by level of commitment. So what we’re really able to do is try to create a displays and placements and planograms that align with what the shoppers are looking for.
Will Bachman: Talk to me a bit about who these anthropologist, ethnographers are who work for you. What kind of training do they have? Is it someone with an anthropology degree or do you have an ethnographer bootcamp that you run people through? How do you train folks and how do you select them?
John Dranow: The core group of our people are from our anthropologists are our people speak 46 different languages. They’re generally in graduate school, they’re writing their dissertations. Or we also have a lot of teachers and a lot of professors. People tend to go to school during more normal 9-5 business hours, people tend to shop more in the evenings and weekends.
We have a lot of graduate students who are writing their dissertation and they’re then working for us as part of their educational path. We have a lot of teachers who are working with us part time in addition to their core teaching responsibility. But very well educated group of people.
Will Bachman: Talk to me a bit about how an independent professional listening to this show here might partner with your firm. What stage in a project would they need to reach out to you? What’s the timeline look like to get one of these things set up and running? Is it, I call you today and on Monday you can have teams on the ground around the world? Or is this two weeks of designing the survey and a week of briefing the team and three weeks in the field? Talk to me a little bit about timelines and how maybe an independent professional could engage your firm to support a project.
John Dranow: I think the very first thing is that I would speak to your group, your very impressive group in Umbrex is to understand the differentiating value of this kind of work. When we first started nearly 20 years ago, what I was saying is using advanced technology and anthropology, we’re going to produce differentiated data. And a lot of people both in the consulting community and the marketing community and the advertising said, gee, data’s a commodity and really what [inaudible 00:30:29] our intelligence.
And I heard probably about 20 to 30 people give me almost that same answer. And I said, I had one of those eureka moments which is to say, if everybody thinks that intelligence and education is the point of differentiation and data is the commodity, I actually think it’s just the reverse. For example, if I took, let’s say, 20 of your distinguished members. And I gave 10 of them a superior data set, and I gave 10 of them an inferior data set, the ones with the superior data set are going to far outperform the ones with the inferior data set.
I think the first thing we would say to people is, it’s too easy to go with inferior data, just quick secondary research, some quick, few focus groups here and there. Or just a very quick and casual online survey and then feel you’ve got the data to differentiate. What we say is, really, if you believe in the differentiated data, that’s really the first step. And then what we say is cost. We have many, many references. We’re working a lot now for the investment community and I’m incredibly gratified by how much we’re working for the investment community.
Will Bachman: Let’s say someone’s convinced about the value proposition, just in terms of some of the practical things around working with an independent professional. Is that something that you’re set up to do? So if someone has a client and a project that relates to this retail or [CBG 00:32:16] type work, that they could potentially bring your firm in as a sub-contractor on that project to run that ethnography piece of it?
John Dranow: Absolutely. Again, we’re on the web, John Dranow, CEO of SmartRevenue. Or if you go to the website, if you call me or if you email me, I will get right back to you. I mean, I think that what we really like is just to really, the first thing is to always understand what are you trying to solve for? Are you trying to win business with this or do you have a client and you’re trying to retain the client? Or are you working for somebody who’s considering an investment, are you working for investors or you’re working for the management?
What I always want to do is really understand who we’re potentially serving, understanding the objectives. And then it’s really a three step process. There’s the pre work where you align on the scope, the proposal, the objectives, the methodologies, the budgets. And that is a, really, it’s a one to three week process. Generally, it can be longer, but it’s just generally a one to three week process to align on every aspect of the project. Then again, depending on the complexity, then it’s probably a one to three week process to actually conduct the field work. And then about a one to three week process to the do the analysis.
Depending on the project, and let’s say in the private equity world, they want you to move really quickly. So three weeks can be a long time. Sometimes, when you’re working for a manufacturer, retailer, you have the, we’re working right now for a major, one of the major retailers and one of their manufacturer partners. And they’re doing a beautiful holiday display in their store, beautiful. It’ll be written up. And then they want to test the efficacy, the impact of this display compared to, in the test environment, compared to the control environment.
In that case, it’s going to be, we have a fairly long runway to getting ready. We’re going to be testing it through the key holiday times in post Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas. And then we’ll be doing the analysis. We really like to be terrific partners with particularly people in your sector to really understand, do you have special templates, do you have reporting ways that you want us to put it in your language. We’re okay being under the hood, if that’s what people want. But generally, most people want to be transparent that they are working with us.
Will Bachman: Sure, that’s what I would expect. In terms of timeline then, let’s say that I was working with, and I’m not, so this is not client confidential. Let’s say I’m working with Panera and we were doing some kind of thing, like you talked about understanding the whole buying decision process. I call you up today, and say, “Hey John, doing this project to try to improve the average dollar spend and the satisfaction that people have with their selection.”
So we start a conversation today, it sounds like it would take one to three weeks to scope it out and decide the exact tactics of what your team would be doing. And then when would you actually have people in the field at Paneras around the world observing people? And how long would we need to have them in the field typically? And then how long does it take to analyze the data so we have some insights? Walk me through that timeline.
John Dranow: I would say, to use the Panera example, a good timeline would be a nine week timeline where you spend really three weeks, three weeks really getting to know the objectives, lining it up. Again, it can be two weeks, it can be one week, it can even be a few days if it has to be. And then we would agree on methodologies. I think in food service, since you bring that up, one of the things that’s really important is mystery shopping. And again, mystery shopping kind of has a commoditized name.
But we have an ethnographic role playing mystery shopping. So we would send people in and they would create different scenarios, and then we would understand how the staff responds to it. Did they respond to it in an effective way? If we throw them a few curve balls, do they know how to respond? Do they know how to handle certain service recovery things?
Will Bachman: What would a curve ball be? What kind of curve ball would you thrown to Panera?
John Dranow: You could go into a restaurant and say, “I didn’t get what I ordered. I don’t like what you just served me, I don’t like it.” And then ask them and then, did they, in effect, immediately say, “Please, let me take it back, let me see [inaudible 00:37:30] wrong, I’d be happy to have a manager talk with you. Of course you can order anything else.” Which is of course what all restaurants have as their service standards, or does something else happen? In effect, what all restaurants or retailers, they have standard operations, their service procedures. In effect, are those service procedures followed or are they ignored?
Will Bachman: All right, so you throw them some curve balls. I’m sorry, I interrupted your timeline. So it’s like, anywhere if it was super fast moving, a few days to figure out the plan, or two to three weeks. And then typically, how long do you need to have people on the field with the typical or, for something like we talked about?
John Dranow: The nice thing about having so many ethnographers is we can be in multiple locations. For example, we could have 30 or 40 different ethnographers in 30 or 40 different stores over a weekend. So we might do Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And then there’s always a question of how many completed interviews are you going to get per session and what we could do is, if we’re able to say that each interviewer’s going to get maybe 10 interviews a day and you have … That one interview in a weekend is going to get 20 to 30 interviews. And then you have 10 to 20 interviews, you can get 300 to 500 interviews and observations pretty quickly.
Will Bachman: Okay, so it can be fast if you … How do you get the 30 to 40 people to do it in a consistent way? Are they just doing so many of these that they just have templates and open up template number seven and kind of go? Is there a kickoff session? How do you get them all aligned on the same approach?
John Dranow: What we do is the process is, obviously we align with our client, or let’s say we’re working in your sector with a consultant to a client, you align on the objectives. We are always asked what role do you want us to play. Do you want us to be sort of front and center in this or do you want us to just work very closely with you?
What we do is, once there’s an agreement, there’s a number of documents. There’s a detailed project plan, there’s what we call an ethnographic observational protocol in terms of exactly what we’re measuring and what we’re monitoring. And then there’s a detailed questionnaire guide. And it has unlimited branching and unlimited skip patterns in terms of the questionnaire.
Once you align on the observational protocol, the project plan and the questionnaire, then we know how many ethnographers we recruit, we need to have, then we go to our staff and just say, let’s say it’s in Miami or Dallas or Chicago or wherever, New Orleans. We’ll recruit for our ethnographers to participate. Then we have multiple training sessions before they go into the field. And then we always have what we call a soft launch. So you go in and you do maybe 5% of the interviews. You’d look at the data, you’d see how it’s going, and then you could make any modifications.
Will Bachman: Wow, okay. Do you do any kind of audio recording or video recording of any of the responses and kind of capture those files in case you wanted to actually play clips of live, real human beings talking about it?
John Dranow: Yes, we do. Again, a lot of it has to do with what you’re permitted to do and what you get consent from the person to do so. Certain retailers will, are rather eager for you to do video and certain retailers would say, absolutely not. Generally speaking, people need to be informed of what you’re doing. So if you’re saying, “I would like to, I’m going to conduct an interview.” And they say, “Yes, I’ll do it.” “Now I would like your permission to record you. Do I have your permission to record you?”
Then, if you have, let’s say in the case of eye tracking, “Would you like to participate in an eye tracking interview?” If they say yes, then again, we’re going to get them to sign a release and they’re going to put on special eye tracking glasses.
With emotional facial coding, then we’re going to ask them, “Do we have your permission to take pictures of you as we ask you to answer questions and code them?” Every step of the way is like any other agreement. It’s very documented with permissions and full disclosure.
Will Bachman: This might be kind of a silly question, but what do these eye tracking glasses look like? Do they have some kind of a Google glass little video camera thing or does it just look like a regular pair of glasses? What do they look like?
John Dranow: The eye tracking glasses have really gotten far more advanced as we’ve gone. Right now, you can have eye tracking glasses where I would walk right by you wearing an eye tracking glass, you wouldn’t know I was wearing it. You can have people wearing eye tracking glasses that are completely transparent.
Will Bachman: Yeah, it looks like regular eye glasses?
John Dranow: Yeah, pretty much. I mean some, if you look closely, you’ll see there’s certain differences.
Will Bachman: That’s pretty cool. So basically, they almost look like eye glasses without a whole lot of crazy electronics poking out of them?
John Dranow: Yeah, and it’s really important. We work a lot in prestige beauty on a global basis. And if you think about prestige beauty, small areas of real estate matter enormously. So where, in these displays or these packages, which are pretty small, where exactly do your eyes go? What are the hot spots, what are the cold spots? And it’s very good for communication.
A lot of people will put a lot of text on signs and then we’re able to say, “With all due respect, nobody even looked at that sign. Their eyes didn’t even go there. This is what people looked at, they were looking at the picture, the visual, and they didn’t even look at the text.” The eye tracking can be very communicative in terms of what’s working and what’s not.
Will Bachman: That’s amazing. Do these glasses, are they recording video constantly and then showing where the person’s eyeball is on the video?
John Dranow: Exactly.
Will Bachman: Wow, that is amazing.
John Dranow: Getting back to the example, getting back to the example I was making before about the major manufacturer and a major grocery retailer, a one control test, five test, we’re able to say which of the displays has the most impressions the longest time. What is the hot spot in the display so that then as you iterated, then you can be much more impactful.
Will Bachman: Wow, this is really cool. John, I’ve been consulting I guess for, I don’t know, 15 years. And I have never worked with a firm like yours. But it sounds like an incredibly powerful tool for certain types of projects. So I learned a ton in this conversation and I can easily imagine for certain types of projects, wanting to give you a ring. Any final thoughts for our listeners? I guess I should ask you, you mentioned the name of your firm, but let’s make sure we got it. What’s your website and what’s the best way for people to find you?
John Dranow: It’s SmartRevenue at smartrevenue … One word, SmartRevenue. The website is smartrevenue.com and I’m John Dranow, CEO. And we have about 30 employees and about 1,200 part time. We have a good staff we’re able to work with you. I think that, again, I think that the main thing that I would want to say to your listeners is that the way we think you can better serve your clients is to provide them your wonderful, excellent, educated solutions. But provide it to them with better data that gets them closer to their customers.
That’s where we hope we would come in. I would love to talk more and again, there are many industry specific case studies so if people want to talk about whether food service or manufacturing or over the counter or electronics, we’d be happy to give examples specific to their sector.
Will Bachman: Fantastic. And I know that you have offices across the US in Connecticut, Texas and California and in Geneva, Switzerland and in China. So you’re global. You can offer, I understand your kind of global solution if someone wants to do this outside the US.
John Dranow: Yeah, and we’re doing a lot of work, we see a lot of activity in Brazil right now, Brazil’s a very interesting [inaudible 00:46:45] always happy to work there.
Will Bachman: Fantastic. Well John, thank you so much for spending time talking about what you do. Fascinating stuff, I learned a lot and I really appreciate you being on the show.
John Dranow: And let me please return the compliment. The reason I got engaged was I listen to a number of the people who have been interviewed for this. I think it’s a really excellent service and site that you’re doing that brings all of us independents together. I congratulate you with the work that you’re doing.
Will Bachman: That’s very generous of you to say. John, thanks a lot, thanks for joining.
John Dranow: You take care, bye-bye.

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