We recently had the opportunity to talk with agricultural research expert and IPSOS vice president, Shea Viviano. She has been in the market research discipline for about 20 years, and is now part of one of the world’s leading research companies. More specifically, Shea is involved in market research for the agriculture industry. Here’s what we discussed:
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do. How did you get into market research?
My undergrad degree is in math, and before I got into market research, I wanted to be an actuary. I did my internship for three years with an insurance company and found that I didn’t really like it. It was the same thing over and over again. It didn’t really challenge me. I looked at different options and marketing research was one of them.
Now I do market research for clients in the agriculture industry. I consult with the project managers about what kind of studies would best fit our client’s objectives. I help design the specifics of these projects, including methodologies and techniques to fit the client’s unique challenges. At the end, we have presentations to show our clients our findings.
Tell us a little about the kind of research you do. What types of services do you provide for them?
We do a lot of pricing research. If a company is coming out with a new product or has an existing product, we’ll try to determine the optimal price. We’ll often survey farmers and veterinarians to do so. If they’re in the Research and Development stage of a product, we’ll do research early on to see what they should strategically invest in to make their product. We also do messaging. So we basically cover the full range, from product development to advertising to pricing.
We’re extremely competitive in the pricing and ad testing arena. We provide our clients with comparisons to agriculture norms and are able to show them how their ads are doing compared to their competitors.
What types of clients do you serve?
Our clients are pharmaceutical companies, crop input manufacturers, chemical manufacturers.
How would you describe the state of the agriculture industry?
Right now, it’s a little negative. It’s a little unknown. Farmers aren’t getting a lot of money for their crops right now. With the increased cost of things and the decreased dollars coming in, they’re forced to make difficult decisions,
At the same time, it’s also exciting because there’s a lot of attention on agriculture and what growers can do with the land and resources they have.
What are the biggest challenges/opportunities you see for the industry over the next 6 months?
This is an industry where there’s a year-long purchase funnel. It’s not an industry where people are making decisions every month. Looking ahead, I see more environmental challenges and attempts to combat negative public perceptions. I think it’s something that’s going to improve as people become more educated about how the agriculture industry works.
What's the one thing clients should know about working with a full-service market researcher like yourself?
That we’ve seen a lot. We know what works and what doesn’t work, and we know their industry. We love to be flexible and try new things.
What advice would you give them?
Really pay attention and take time on the front end to communicate objectives. Listen to questions we ask and really take your time when answering them. Really good planning and due diligence on the front end will make the outcome so much better. Without it, results may not be usable.
What's the biggest mistake you see made in market research?
Forgetting that you’re the expert as a researcher. We have clients that don’t know market research, so they have requests that won’t work. But it’s our duty to push back. You should never comply with something you know won’t work just to appease the client. We need to try and let the client know our experiences give us the expertise. We know what we’re doing.
What best practices would you share with fellow researchers?
Again, good planning. Use the resources that you have around you. Ask people questions. A lot of doing our job well comes from not necessarily knowing everything, but knowing who to go to for input and advice. (We know a thing or two about survey design best practices as well.)