We recently hosted a guest who needs no introduction to our market research audience: Lenny Murphy of GreenBook. Lenny has founded nine companies, and has played a leading role in guiding many more as part of their executive teams. He is an advisor to 17 companies - many of them startups, acts as a board member of several organizations, consults with many brands and suppliers, is a very sought after speaker globally, and, last but not least, he is the editor of the GreenBook blog and produces the IIeX series of market research industry events. He spoke with us about a huge number of topics that were covered in the latest GRIT report, the most read and cited strategic planning document in the insights space.
He starts out by giving us a general overview of GreenBook, which has been around for 60 years and began as a simple directory. Lenny began consulting for them about 12 years ago, and initiated the journey of where it is today: a marketing platform for the insights space with a directory, events, publications, blog/content center and more. Lenny created an advising and consulting spinoff, Gen2 Advisors, as a standalone company. He talks a bit about some of the innovative work he’s seeing in the industry, and the genesis of the popular GRIT report (starting 20 years ago!), plus its various iterations.
In the newest GRIT report, in which Lenny says we “see the rubber hits the road on how the insights function is changing”, we can see that market research has completed its transformation to being a tech-led industry. This is illustrated by the fact that technology is currently the healthiest sub-segment where all the growth come from. He mentioned that the data for the last report was collected before the huge surge in AI adoption, and that GreenBook is retooling the next wave of Business Innovation to include a large focus on AI and how it is changing the game.
There is discussion about how the insights function is highly decentralized and that some of the fragmentation has largely been driven by the accessibility of easy-to-use, DIY style tools that allow non-researchers to conduct professional level research in many ways. Guest host John Bird and Lenny talk about the difference between tactical and strategic research, and where automation and democratization can have the more effective impact.
This leads into a more in-depth analysis of generative AI and its potential effect on the industry – and whether or not this technology is ready for “prime time”. The GRIT report examines how technology is changing the way researchers spend their time and creating efficiencies. AI promises to create a sea change for the industry, and companies will have to adapt – especially as it has the potential to deliver on the “three-legged stool” of cheaper, faster, better. However, Lenny does note that the latest report showed that the desire for speed has declined a little bit in importance – as the industry is already delivering faster insights – so now the focus is on cost and quality.
Lenny says that clients want to know “what's the answer to the business question = and how do I connect the answer most efficiently and effectively to my key stakeholders.” How clients are choosing vendors is also shifting, according to the data, focused less on relationship and more on reputation. “New decision makers have different criteria. They can't be dependent upon relationships because those relationships are no longer centralized…there's a lot of waste in in a decentralized organization so there's a lot of duplication.” There is a perpetual conversation going on how connect the dots right, in the way that Infotools does by creating not only a centralized data repository, but also empowering the enterprise to be able to utilize that data in a variety of ways.
Lenny touches on the current stat of the job market in the market research space, and where the biggest opportunities lie. He says the 40-hour work week of creating crosstabs probably doesn’t have much of a future, and that researchers should focus on higher-level, strategic business impact functions. “We're entering another wave of consolidation right now driven by the cycle of economic uncertainty.” Insights professionals will need to straddle the line between service and technology and be ready to ride the wave of ongoing innovation that generally follows disruption.