Interview with Jon Sadow, Product Manager at Google Consumer Surveys

Jon Sadow

Jon Sadow

What an exciting week it turns out to be as I am thrilled to interview Jon Sadow, Product Manager at Google Consumer Surveys. Jon will be presenting on the topic “PUTTING SURVEY DATA WHERE IT BELONGS” at IIEX Conference. In this interview Jon provides in depth insights on various topics related to the market research industry – especially in the context of choosing relevant methodologies for optimal results. I am sure that the readers of this blog will be enriched by his views.

Brief Background of Jon Sadow: Jon Sadow is a Product Manager for Google Consumer Surveys (GCS), currently focusing on internationalization for the Consumer Surveys and Google Opinion Rewards platforms. He originally joined the GCS Business Development & Partnerships team in February 2012, where he worked closely with many of the largest research customers & firms in the industry. Jon first joined Google in 2010, working in the Retail vertical of Google’s Large Customer Sales group, helping advertisers develop successful digital marketing strategies. Jon is a graduate of the George Washington University, where he studied Finance & International Business.

Akshay Kanyal: Can you briefly summarize your responsibilities and what challenges excites you in the current job?

Jon Sadow: I am a Product Manager for Google Consumer Surveys, focusing primarily on our internationalization efforts. We have an ambitious goal of reaching 40 countries in 2014, a challenge I’m excited about. The prospect of managing research in so many markets via one platform is big opportunity for the industry.

Akshay Kanyal: It seems that insight experts love to flirt with new methodologies but don’t seem to let go traditional approaches – is it feasible to sustain without embracing change?

Jon Sadow: Innovation is inevitable, and I think in any industry is a requirement for long-term success. As far as adopting new methodologies it’s about two things: balance and purpose.

For the first, there’s no “Golden Ratio” when it comes to embracing new methodologies.

Different areas of research will be strengthened by varying mixes of old and new approaches.

As for purpose – researchers have to really ask themselves why they should or should not explore new approaches. What do they have to gain? What is the risk of not innovating? Fear of change or the ease of “what’s always been done” are illegitimate reasons not to innovate. Business metrics, client needs, and data quality must be the priorities. The question is: do the new methodologies advance these priorities?

Akshay Kanyal: “Water, water, everywhere, not any drop to drink” is this rime of the ancient mariners applicable to the huge data that researchers deal with to extract insights?

Jon Sadow: It depends on how you interpret the phrase. Collecting loads of additional data without an end goal in mind might be frivolous. We should be asking ourselves and our clients – what is the data for? What questions are we trying to answer? What is the value to the business?

As far as making use of the vast amounts of data, researchers would be well served to understand the various skills and technology required to properly handle and manage Big Data. There are a lot of companies that have competencies in handling this information, and the research industry should embrace and partner with them.

Akshay Kanyal: With so many methodologies at our disposal is it becoming “too many cooks spoil the broth”? How should we go about selecting the right methodology for our audience?

Jon Sadow: By asking which methodology is likely to help a client make the best possible business decision. Yes, there are many more methodologies today than a few years ago. But, we should use this to our advantage.

It’s the job of the research firms to understand and apply them to their clients’ needs. Clients should be evaluating agencies, in part, on their ability to match their problems with the best approach – new or old.

Akshay Kanyal: What prominent steps should be taken to make surveys sexy?

Jon Sadow: Do surveys need to be sexier? I’m not sure. Surveys are a powerful research tool that can solve an array of business problems. Good researchers should, and I think will, embrace this.

Akshay Kanyal: Google surveys in context of Big Data – can you shed some more light?

Jon Sadow: Survey data today is more powerful than ever. It’s faster, cheaper, and higher quality. Proper Big Data does a good job capitalizing on secondary, harder to collect insights. But, primary data, like surveys, has tremendous value in framing other information. We’ve seen some great examples of pairing our survey data with other data sets, and I’ll talk about a lot of these at IIeX.

Akshay Kanyal: How you are positioning Google to be a ‘game changer’ in the insight domain?

Jon Sadow: We’re really pushing researchers to think about “respondent-first.” At Google, this is in our DNA. Users come first, always. So far, that philosophy has worked really well for us. To us, respondents are another form of user, and our greatest disruption to research would be re-orienting the industry to think this way.

Akshay Kanyal: Are small enterprises able to leverage the power of Google surveys? If so what more changes you intend to offer in coming 5 years?

Jon Sadow: Absolutely – one of our goals when we set out was to bring high quality, high-powered data to businesses of all sizes. I think as we grow, we’ll want to continue building solutions that can help businesses of all sizes. This could mean more automated insights for enterprises with limited resources, or hyper-local targeting for local businesses.

Akshay Kanyal: According to you what seems to be the future of market research – especially in context of social media?

Jon Sadow: It’s all about the commoditization of data. We’re already able to collect millions of survey responses a year and analyze tens of millions of tweets. Soon, we’ll be able to do this anywhere, in near real-time.

But, technology will disrupt every industry.

For research, the future, to me, is about the role researchers play.

How well do we use this data to answer business problems? I envision a shift to a more strategic, analytical, consultative role within organizations. And if researchers don’t fill it, someone else will.

Akshay Kanyal: What key points you want to convey through your presentation at IIEX Atlanta?

Jon Sadow: We’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of years talking about our methodology and philosophy. At IIEX, I want to demonstrate how some innovators are using robust sets of survey data to do some pretty cool stuff – build big, powerful models, inform big data sets, and even annotate search ads.

Akshay Kanyal: If we want to know more about your company what will be the best source of information?

Jon Sadow: g.co/consumersurveys

Akshay Kanyal: What is the most important ingredient to become an awesome market researcher?

Jon Sadow: Put the respondent first.

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