Is 2012 the year of the MROC?

January 17, 2012 Author: Mario X. Carrasco

When initially thinking about the title for this blog, I wanted to come out with a bold, attention grabbing statement such as “2012 is the year of the MROC”. Then I realized that the market research blogosphere is flooded with these types of claims and this type of hyperbole made me realize that one cannot say that 2012 will be THE year of the MROC, but for your organization it should be.

I left one of the leading Hispanic Market Research agencies, Garcia Research Associates (recently purchased by Knowledge Networks & subsequently purchased by GfK) to start ThinkNow Research because I believe so strongly that the MROC is the future of market research, specifically Hispanic Market Research.

Now, one year after launching the company, ThinkNow Research has seen overwhelming growth. The MROC is the cornerstone of our company and has driven its growth, solidifying the notion that the MROC is here to stay, at least for the Hispanic market in our case.

Yet as I see more companies embracing the MROC as part of their products/services portfolio, I see that each company is contributing a unique perspective to the “What is an MROC?” dialogue. From this splintered dialogue, one point clearly emerges; this is an evolving medium with no definitive answer to the question.

This conclusion should not come as a surprise as the MROC was born out of the Web 2.0 revolution as Market Research’s answer to social media. Social Media is constantly evolving so it is safe to assume that due to the social nature of the MROC, the medium itself is also evolving.
But to say that a medium is evolving does not mean we do not have concrete evidence for what works. ThinkNow Research has built many communities this year and we embrace the notion that this is an evolving medium as it keeps each new community we build fresh and open to suggestions from each of our clients. But there are 3 tenets that we stick to for each community that are paramount to the success of each MROC:

1. Client buy in – this is at the top of my list as it is the defining factor between a “good” community and a “great” community. Across all of the communities we have built, the companies we work with that have a personal investment in the success of the community through the allocation of dedicated resources and personnel come away not only with the insights we set out to unearth, but come out with insights above and beyond what they could have envisioned.

To me, the insights that clients never expected to get out of a community are the insights that really matter. Those insights are a result of the medium itself. As someone who has worked heavily in traditional quantitative online research, well crafted online surveys will always deliver the results you were looking for, but with an MROC there is an element of playing jazz. A well defined goal for an MROC is always necessary, but with the intrinsic social nature of the MROC there is always room for improvisation, which is the most exciting part of the medium for us.

2. Clear goals – This is a tenet that goes for any market research project but I think it is even more critical with an MROC as they are a significant client investment in comparison to traditional research and usually last several months. I think there is a belief that if an MROC company designs a snazzy community portal, recruits the right people, and moderates a community effectively, that insights will spontaneously appear. An MROC needs a clear vision, community members need to be invisibly united behind a common goal. Every part of the construction of the community, to the moderation should be guided by the goals of the community. Without clear direction, a community looks more like high school dance with everyone on the sidelines as opposed to a thoughtfully planned mixer with vibrant conversations.

3. Custom platform – I strongly believe that in order to run a successful MROC, companies must have a platform tailored for their specific needs. There is no out of the box solution that can successfully meet every client’s needs. At ThinkNow Research, we bring in our programmers at the onset of a project kickoff and involve them in the community goals conversation as early as possible in order to start thinking of the best architecture for the specific community portal that will deliver the client’s goals in the most effective manner possible from a technology standpoint.

I have purposefully skipped key components of a market research community such as close monitoring and management, involved moderation, etc. but those are all components that come into play after a community is built, and every company embarking on building an MROC should be well versed in this as this is where the unique value proposition of each company’s approach to the execution of MROCs come in.

I look forward to seeing what new developments come in the MROC space in 2012 as ThinkNow Research will definitely be continuing to build more MROCs while developing new strategies with our clients.

Mario Xavier Carrasco
ThinkNow Research