It’s been quite a ride over my 20+ year career in the market research industry. My first exposure to this business came while I was attending business school at Boston University. My emphasis was in Marketing, and I’ve always been a statistics wonk, so taking a course in Market Research was a natural fit. The professor had guest speakers from local Nielsen and Information Resources (IRI) offices, and I found the blending of marketing, statistics, psychology and analytics fascinating. Immediately after graduation, I accepted a position at IRI in Client Services where I focused primarily on tracking and analyzing UPC scanner data for consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical firms.
As the online research space was evolving, in 2002 I decided to expand my research experience from offline/syndicated/secondary research to online/custom/primary research by accepting a role as Vice President of Client Services for MarketTools. This experience exposed me to online panels, recruitment methodologies, incentive management, building a community, and maintaining an engaged and responsive panel base.
I broadened my skills into a pure Client Development role eventually leading to a Sales Leadership position for the Western U.S. where we conducted research on attitude and usage, new concepts, product testing, and advertising for clients in CPG, Financial Services, Technology, and Retail industries.
In 2008, I joined Research Now, where I now serve as Senior Vice President of Client Development . I continue to be enthusiastic about the high degree of corporate integrity, excellent customer service, quality sample, programming, and the broadest international coverage in the industry with wholly owned and managed assets.
ONLINE MR: What are your primary responsibilities at Research Now?
Adam Portner: Currently, I am responsible for Client Development in the Western U.S. and the Canadian market. I manage a team of thirty sales professionals across five offices with a portfolio of over 300 active clients. I also am a frequent speaker at industry conferences and an active member of CASRO.
ONLINE MR: How do you convince clients in a market dominated by ‘cost effectiveness’?
Adam Portner: Clearly, the last few years have been fraught with challenges in part due to economic pressures as a whole. However, I continue to believe in the proposition that value wins out in the long run.
While many of our clients are tempted by continuing decline in prices among many fieldwork providers, we believe our excellent client service, and our most responsive, deeply profiled panels in the industry will fuel our success.
At Research Now we are constantly working to improve internal efficiencies to ensure our product offerings remain market competitive.
We always look to the respondent experience as our guidepost. I believe that it is simply unsustainable to expect $2.50 CPI’s for 30-minute surveys among a low incidence population while still maintaining a positive respondent experience and profitable business model.
We are able to offer such high panellist tenure and responsiveness because we provide fair incentives for thoughtful answers to surveys against the audience our clients demand.
ONLINE MR: How are you gearing up for 2012 in terms of targets and milestones?
Adam Portner: As Research Now is not a public company, we do not release specific revenue targets. However, we are proud that in 2011 we exceeded industry growth organically, and are off to a strong start in 2012.
We believe that as the global economy continues to recover that our prospects are bright.
We are also very excited about our expansion in the emerging Social Media listening space through Conversation, DIY online polling, mobile surveys, and web traffic real-time sampling services.
ONLINE MR: What roadblocks do you think needs to be overcome in coming few years for Research Now?
Adam Portner: As the industry continues to consolidate, and we consider strategic acquisitions, it will always be an ongoing challenge to integrate our expanded offerings to best serve the needs of our clients.
Seamlessly integrating our systems such that we continue to deliver the best sample source that’s fit for purpose is something we’ve proven we do very well , and this will continue in the future.
I wouldn’t characterize these as “roadblocks to overcome” as much as “challenges we will meet.”
ONLINE MR: How has online panel business changed in the past few years?
Adam Portner: I think this is a very exciting time for online research, and panels in particular.
I continue to believe that well-recruited panels that offer fair incentives and a positive respondent experience will continue to thrive.
In the past few years the perception that the panelist experience is the sole responsibility of the fieldwork firm has diminished.
There is beginning to the realization that Full Service Market Research firms also share responsibility for ensuring the limited resource of online survey respondents have a positive experience through well constructed and engaging survey instruments, and are fairly compensated for their time and insights.
ONLINE MR: With more players jumping into the fray – how are you maintaining your competitive edge?
Adam Portner: Competition is healthy for our industry as it helps to raise the game of every participant.
As a global leader providing the most reliable source of online data from six million panel members across 38 countries serviced by experienced staff in 22 cities worldwide, it’s important that we never let our strength lead to complacency.
The past few years of global economic challenges also afforded an opportunity to re-examine everything we do as an organization to ensure we operate efficiently and continue to delight our clients.
The e-Rewards’ “By Invitation Only” model has worked effectively over the years, and we continue to invest in broadening our industry leading 40 recruitment partners globally to expand this successful business model.
ONLINE MR: What success mantra would you share with aspiring youngsters in this market?
Adam Portner: It was Norman Vincent Peale who said, “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”
It’s important to find a career that aligns with what you love and inspires you to higher achievement.
ONLINE MR: Proprietary Panels Vs Panel aggregation – your take on the debate?
Adam Portner: I strongly believe that proprietary panels have many advantages that cannot be replicated through aggregation.
Given the millions of panelists we have recruited through multiple sources, I feel there is a benefit to ownership, management and control of those assets.
Aggregation of panels may give the appearance of broader representation, but risks associated with not knowing the source of the respondent, or duplication, or quality for a particular study are not insignificant.
I believe some firms tout the benefits of panel aggregation due to the fact that their own panel assets have experienced high attrition and response rates have dramatically declined. Therefore, panel aggregation is not necessarily a preferred approach, but rather a consequence of diminished product capacity.
ONLINE MR: What aspect of your career you would like to change?
Adam Portner: This may sound corny, but I have no regrets. I feel that every experience I have had is a blessing and has benefited me in some way.
My interests in consumer behavior, psychology, mathematics, and marketing coalesced during my university and graduate school years which naturally led me to the market research industry.
Working for IRI in the early 90’s was a very exciting time as the company was just embarking on UPC-based syndicated data analysis. Then my experience in the online primary survey research space in the early 2000’s allowed me to grow on the cutting edge of an exciting new field.
And my years at Research Now have demonstrated what a laser-like focus on being the global leader in permission-based digital data collection can accomplish.
ONLINE MR: What qualities do you look for when you are hiring a team member?
Adam Portner: People with high personal integrity, intelligence, passion for our industry, and a hunger for continuous learning.
ONLINE MR: Work life balance – your views on it?
Adam Portner: Technology can be quite freeing in allowing for work to be done anywhere at any time. While this offers so many benefits, it can also be a trap if not managed properly.
While I appreciate being able to send and receive emails at 35,000 feet, or travelling on the BART train at 100 feet below the San Francisco Bay, it’s also important to compartmentalize your time.
I have a reputation for sending emails to my team on Sunday evenings when my kids are asleep, but this is the time I am planning for my week and getting a strong start to Monday. It is my solution to avoid the constant drone of emails, news, social media buzz, etc.
I enjoy being with my family, mountain biking, golfing and many other activities outside of work.
I believe this balance not only makes one a healthy person, but a more productive employee.
We need to be the masters of our technology, not the other way around!
ONLINE MR: How would you liked to be remembered as?
Adam Portner: First and foremost, as a loving father and husband. With respect to my career in market research, I’d like to be remembered as someone who cared deeply for my team, clients, and colleagues, and someone who made a difference. But I don’t plan on going anywhere any time soon, so for now I am enjoying the ride!
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