Beall Research is a full-service qualitative and quantitative research firm with expertise in analyzing how emotions drive behavior. They’ve learned that people don’t always act rationally, can’t always explain their actions, and that feelings often drive purchasing. They specialize in market segmentation, brand health evaluation and tracking, due diligence, and product, service, and communications optimization, to name a few. We met with Founder & CEO Anne Beall (pictured) to learn more.
Of the services you offer, is there one in particular that is still emerging, and you feel holds the most unfulfilled promise? If so, why and how do you see it evolving / helping your clients in the future?
We’ve been working on the concept of emotional needs and how these needs are fulfilled, which leads to an emotional connection with a brand. We’ve discovered that people try to address their emotional needs in many ways—one way is through the products and services they buy. Brands can create strong emotions in us when they address these needs, and they can influence how we feel about ourselves.
For several years now research companies have realized they can't simply deliver insights but need to consult closely with clients to help them implement and communicate insights across their corporations to have a real impact. How are you going about this?
We have close relationships with our clients and often work at the C-suite level. That is how we have the biggest impact. The other way we’re having an impact is by offering services beyond traditional research. We provide consulting services and we have been put on retainer with major companies for these services alone.
How do you see the role of the research methods that you employ changing as data streams continue to proliferate and analytics become more sophisticated?
I haven’t seen research methods changing per se, but we are now getting much more information and making sense of it all is the challenge. Smart people and intelligent software that can find patterns in large loads of data may help.
If you had to identify a single obstacle to gaining better insights – what would it be?
Clients not having a strategic focus when designing research. Sometimes clients are trying to stuff too much material into a study, trying to make the most of their dollars, and the study doesn’t have enough of a strategic focus and depth to be actionable. It is our job as consultants and researchers to guide our clients to a set of objectives and hypotheses that will result in research that provides useful insights.
What is your biggest pain point currently? How are you working to fix it?
Sample quality in online consumer panels is a huge problem in research, which impacts data quality. The problem has worsened over the past few years. We have developed quality control measures to catch fraud from cheaters, bad actors, and bots in our survey data, and routinely clean out 30%-40% of the sample.
Are you working more with client-side contacts who are outside of traditional market research (CX, Data Analytics, etc.)? If so, what areas specifically? What challenges or opportunities have resulted from this?
We work with a lot of private-equity clients who need to determine if they should invest in a business or not. These individuals are often not traditional market research buyers, and our findings are only one input they will use to make an investment decision. The work is very fast-paced and high pressure. It’s also highly confidential; we know about major mergers and acquisitions before they occur.
What is the number-one area of improvement your business is working on (e.g., speed to insights, DIY tools, improving data quality, etc.)?
We are highly focused on data quality and are constantly analyzing sample quality and developing new ways to ensure that poor quality respondents are identified and removed from studies. We have self-funded studies to test our new approaches against our existing approaches to improve our methods and deal with more sophisticated fraud.
What are the most common problems that brands bring to your door?
The most common problem that brands bring to us is that they don’t understand the large undifferentiated markets in front of them and they don’t know what segments will provide them with the growth they’re seeking. The other common problem they have is that they don’t understand how to emotionally connect with potential and current customers.
Tell us a bit about how you decided to form your company and how you went about growing it in its early stages.
I founded Beall Research 20 years ago this year. It’s hard to imagine that we’re going on a 20-year anniversary, but here it is! I started the company initially because I didn’t want to work for another boss who repeatedly told me that my ideas were good, but not for this study or for that client. So, I started my firm thinking that it would just be me, but we were successful from the start, and I added employees in the first years. And I found clients were very receptive to my ideas. I went about growing the company by telling everyone I knew I started the company. I think I called or emailed anyone I’d met for several years. (That guy I sat next to on the plane is still wondering who I am.) And then I just started doing good work and getting referrals.
What surprised you most about being an entrepreneur?
I naively thought I’d have so much more control over my schedule and that I’d work less. I actually work more. But I love the work I do, and when you’re passionate about what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.
What are your immediate (1 year) and long-term (5 years) goals for your company?
Our immediate goal is to bring our emotions model to more of our clients and to help them use it in their research—in their brand tracking, segmentations, communications work, and other strategic research they do with us. Our five-year goal is to write a book that details all the work we’ve done on emotions and to publish it so others can use our insights.
What prompted you to join the Insights Association?
I joined the Insights Association because I saw the need for an organization that promoted our industry and stood up to crazy laws that affected our work, such as laws about not contacting people for surveys, etc. I have always loved this industry and the people within it, so it made total sense. I wish I’d joined earlier, to be honest.