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Friday, January 12, 2007

Greenfield Online Case Study - Attention Men-Your Opinions Are Needed Click Here

Greenfield Online Case Study: Innovation in an established industry
written by Nisan Gabbay, posted on October 22nd, 2006

Why profiled on Startup Review
Greenfield Online pioneered the use of the Internet for conducting market research surveys in the mid-90’s. They had their IPO in 2004 with shares trading in the $20 range, but have since seen a decline to $10 per share (see share stock chart). The market cap of the company is ~$270M as of this writing. The financials of the company leading up to the IPO were strong: 2002 ($15M sales), 2003 ($26M sales, 17% EBITDA), 2004 ($44M sales, 23% EBITDA).

Greenfield Online is an interesting case study because they faced some difficult strategic decisions in the post-bubble time period. Greenfield shifted company strategy, helping them to grow revenue more quickly, but may have compromised a larger long-term opportunity. It is difficult to say what the right decision for Greenfield was, but makes for an interesting discussion below.

Interviews conducted: Steve Cook (ex-Sr.VP of Sales ’96 – ’01, 3rd employee) – Steve is now CEO/President of Target Research Group, a full service marketing research company. Rudy Nadilo, former CEO of Greenfield Online.


Key success factors
I’d like to first chronicle what Greenfield did between 1994 and 2001 to establish themselves as the leading player in the online quantitative market research industry, and then discuss a turning point in the company’s strategy that began in 2001. The change in 2001 propelled Greenfield’s revenue growth and path to liquidity. It could be viewed as either a success factor or perhaps a misstep, based on whom you ask.

Company and management credibility

Greenfield Online was originally a division of a traditional, successful market research firm, Greenfield Consulting Group. This background was important in establishing the use of internet surveys as a valid methodology in the early days. Being a pioneer in a traditional, established industry is a hard thing to do without credibility and pre-existing business relationships. Greenfield Online had both, an important factor in winning over early adopters to try a new methodology.

Clear value proposition over existing approaches

Using the Internet to administer surveys had a greater than 50% cost advantage over traditional methods, with greater flexibility in turnaround time and targeting. While Greenfield was not the only company to have this advantage, I felt that it was important to point out that surveying was an application that clearly made sense for Internet delivery.

First mover advantage coupled with slow moving incumbents

Greenfield Online was the first company to build an online survey “panel”, i.e. a database of people willing to take surveys over the Internet. Being the first mover enabled Greenfield to establish the largest panel at the lowest cost of customer acquisition. The incumbent market research providers (Harris) were slow to embrace Internet surveying because existing methodologies (both quantitative and qualitative) had higher price points. Greenfield Online was mostly focused on quantitative online research, so didn’t have any cannibalization / product conflict issues to deal with.

Change in product strategy to better leverage channels

So what happened in 2001?

As Greenfield Online was preparing for an IPO in early 2000, the market collapsed, causing the company’s investors to shift the company’s strategy. While the focus of the company had been on building a full service market research firm that offered a variety of services, Greenfield instead focused on selling “sample” or access to the panel to other market research firms. Thus, Greenfield Online removed product conflict barriers and chose to embrace other market research firms as channels.

This strategy had several benefits in the near term. It enabled Greenfield to ramp revenues more quickly using a smaller number of less expensive employees. Greenfield had been creating syndicated research products and providing custom services which required more up-front investment. Given the emphasis on profitability and a faster path to liquidity, this part of the business became less appealing when viewed through a shorter investment horizon.

However, one could argue that this focus on selling sample was the wrong long-term strategic decision. Selling Internet survey sampling has become a near commodity business with little differentiation amongst the top players Building a database of survey takers and the technology to administer those surveys is not a highly differentiable product. Greenfield’s early management team felt that the sample-focused strategy didn’t properly leverage the blue chip brand that Greenfield had built. Had they not shifted strategies they could have become one of the pre-eminent market research firms in the industry. It is difficult to say whether the change in company strategy was the right decision or not, and clearly, many factors were involved. It did help to achieve the objectives of a quicker path to liquidity for investors, whether explicitly intentional or not.


Launch strategy
Greenfield Online built its panel of survey takers in the early days through pretty basic affiliate relationships. Greenfield contacted the webmasters of high traffic websites and asked them to link to Greenfield, with Greenfield paying a sign-up fee back to the affiliate site. This type of rudimentary affiliate marketing was how Greenfield got off the ground in the very early days of the web.


Exit analysis
As of October 17, 2006, Greenfield Online had a market cap of $270M (enterprise value of $246M). Trailing twelve month revenues were $93M, thus the EV/sales multiple is 2.63. Operating margin over that time period was 10.4%, and EV/EBITDA multiple was 11.1. For a basis of comparison, the average EV/EBITDA comp for all public Internet companies is ~17X. Considering that the stock is down ~50% since its IPO, it has not been a strong performer. How does this compare to a traditional market research firm? Some of the publicly traded companies (TNS, Gfk, and Aegis) seem to trade in the 10X EBITDA multiple range and have 10%-20% profit margins. Thus, it does not appear that Greenfield would have been more highly valued had they stayed the course of becoming a full service research firm.

So how did the VC investors do? According to my calculations from the SEC filings, the three largest VC investors (Insight Venture Partners, UBS Capital, and MSD Ventures) invested a total of $29M over three rounds and owned ~35% after the IPO. I didn’t go through a painstaking effort to check when the VCs sold their shares and how many they might still hold, but a 35% stake of $270M would equate to roughly a 3X return. Both Insight and UBS sold some shares upon IPO at a price of $17 (well above today’s price of ~$10), but it appears that these sales only accounted for about $30M of their combined holdings.


Food for thought
Most venture capitalists will never publicly state that they are looking for an exit with an investment. For the most part, both entrepreneurs and their investors are trying to build successful businesses and usually goals are aligned. However, part of the value that a VC brings is identifying the right paths to liquidity for a company and the appropriate timing for such exits. I believe that understanding exit options in today’s M&A environment is more important than ever before. The supply side of tech start-ups outstrips the demand in most markets, i.e. buyers have many options from which to choose. There will always be a few hot companies that can dictate their own future, but most start-ups need to take an active role in navigating towards an exit. Sometimes it’s a game of musical chairs and you don’t want to be left without a seat. As an entrepreneur or company management, keeping an open line of communication with your investors about exits is important.

At Greenfield Online, the early company management that I spoke with wanted to build a premier brand as a market research firm and create syndicated research services (thereby leveraging their panel of survey takers). Greenfield’s investors took the company in another direction, becoming more of a service provider to other research firms. I assume that the investors felt this strategy was more scaleable and capable of providing the growth necessary for a shorter path to liquidity. Most VCs don’t want to be in services businesses, preferring to be an infrastructure or software provider as they tend to have better valuation multiples than services firms.

This was a case where there was disagreement between management and investors. It does happen - and probably more often than either party would like. My lesson learned: as an entrepreneur you should be aware of the motivations of your investors and have the hard conversations with them early and often to help prevent misalignment. These conversations should also be re-visited when changes occur in the market – when either a competitor has been acquired or market requirements for exit shift.

Secondly, I believe that it is worth pointing out that the start-up (Greenfield Online) that became the winner in pioneering the use of the Internet for quantitative market research came from management with a strong history and brand within the industry. This is a pattern that I have seen often in industries that are well established and haven’t had much innovation in many years. These types of industries are slower to embrace change, and as a result, prefer to buy from companies where there is a high degree of trust in the people behind the product, as much as the product itself. When the value proposition for competing alternatives is similar, customers will opt to buy from people that they have pre-existing relationships with. If you are operating in a traditional industry, hiring management that can establish your credibility as a company is a critical success factor.


Reference Articles
There were only a handful of articles that I could find on the history of Greenfield Online and the reasons for their success. The above analysis has largely been based on the interviews conducted with early company management. One article that I did find interesting was a January 1997 interview with Greenfield Online founder Andrew Greenfield which discusses the origins of the company.

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Having come from the market research firm Telephia, this analysis was right on the mark. Telephia, a wireless market research firm that conducted HUGE online surveys, used Harris and Greenfield as it’s

Comment by Kevin — October 23, 2006 @ 9:55 pm

(sorry last comment got cut off)

primary provider. Telephia made the great decision in 2003 to go upstream and wrap more services around the core research data, as opposed to simply being a data provider. That strategy has helped Telephia to build solid relationships with all the carriers’ senior exec teams, which helped them survive the telecom meltdown at the time. Telephia also made a concerted effort to build relationships with the most senior execs at the carriers (going all the way to CXO level), insisting that survey results be presented directly to CXO instead of simply working through the marketing or advertising groups. This strategy took a huge investment, as the company hired a bunch of pricey senior ex-McKinsey consultants instead of a traditional sales team. But those solid relationships saved our allocated budgets — when our customers’ execs went through to ax their division VP’s budget dollars, they carved out special dollars from corporate budgets for our research.

Nice work analyzing a non web two doh company.

Comment by Kevin Chou — October 23, 2006 @ 10:08 pm

Nice review..

do you know of any “Hot New” trends in the Industry Greenfield started..any comments..?

Comment by A Mkt research geek — November 20, 2006 @ 11:29 pm

Thanks for the review! My company has been purchasing sample from Greenfield for over 6 years. While they continue to innovate (most recently real-time sampling) we primarily use them because of their management team’s credibility.

Comment by Jamin Brazil — December 25, 2006 @ 7:22 am

Saturday, December 23, 2006

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Portable MP3 Player Ownership Reaches New High

Portable MP3 Player Ownership Reaches New High
One In Five Americans Aged 12 And Older Owns A Portable MP3 Player: Ipsos Research Interest In Additional Multimedia Content For Portable MP3 Players Fueled By Teens And Young Adults, Reveals Quarterly Digital Music Study, TEMPO: Keeping Pace With Digital Music Behavior

New York, NY — A new study by global market research firm Ipsos indicates that as many as one in five Americans over the age of 12 now own portable MP3 Players and one in 20 own more than one. And interest in viewing music videos, photos, TV shows and even full-length movies from these devices is especially strong among younger consumers who have experience downloading music.

New findings released today from TEMPO, the company’s quarterly study of digital music behaviors, show that 20% of Americans aged 12 and older now own a portable MP3 player. This marks a significant increase over ownership levels found one year ago (15%), and nearly double the proportion of owners found in April 2003 (11%). And in a sign that not only new buyers are driving this trend, 6% of Americans own more than one portable MP3 player.
Total headphone-MP3 sales reached $4.23 billion in 2005, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. These popular devices accounted for 85 percent of all factory-level portable audio sales last year, CEA statistics showed.

Recent TEMPO research also revealed some interesting demographic and diagnostic trends surrounding the use of Portable MP3 Players:

Younger Americans are driving recent growth, with over half of teens now owning a Portable MP3 Player (54%), and one third of 18-34 year olds (30%). Older Americans are less likely to own these devices overall, but still represent a sizable and consistent presence in the market (13% of 35 – 54 year olds report owning a Portable MP3 Player).
Males continue to lead females in Portable MP3 Player ownership, with nearly one quarter (24%) of U.S. males aged 12 and older owning a device, compared to 16% of females.
Nearly half of music downloaders own a portable MP3 player (48%), and these owners use their devices an average of 12 hours per week. Younger downloaders use their MP3 Players more often (average of over 16 hours per week among teens), but have less digital content stored on their devices. Overall, there is an average of 700 songs or files stored on a U.S. music downloader’s MP3 player.

Existing CD collections continue to be the primary source of MP3 Player content among music downloaders. Nearly half (44%) of the content stored on MP3 players is ripped from the owner’s personal CD collection, and another 6% is ripped from others’ CD collections. Fee-based downloads (25%) and files obtained from file sharing services (19%) are also common sources of content.

“Over the past year, the portable MP3 market has really matured, and we are now seeing not just new buyers entering this market, but also growing levels of multiple device ownership indicative of overall category satisfaction and habitualized behavior,” said Matt Kleinschmit, a Vice President with Ipsos Insight and author of the TEMPO study. “What is perhaps most interesting about this is that experienced portable device owners are now buying new players with a level of usage and storage capacity knowledge unseen just a few years ago. Understanding how these unique buyers are adapting specific players to different usage activities and locations will provide manufacturers and content providers alike with a compelling perspective on where the increasingly important portable media category may be heading.”
Desire for Access to Broader Multimedia Content Fueled by Young Downloaders
The recent TEMPO research also found nearly one-quarter of Portable MP3 Player owners believe their devices have the ability to play video, and interest in viewing music videos, photos, TV shows and even full-length movies is especially strong among younger consumers who have experience downloading music. Over one-third of music downloaders between the ages of 12 and 24 say they are extremely or very interested in viewing video content on their portable devices (39% - music videos; 33% - TV shows; 32% - full length motion pictures), compared to fewer than one-fifth among downloaders aged 25 – 54 (15%, 18% and 17%, respectively).

Even more than video content, however, radio listening is one of the most desired additional uses for portable MP3 players. Nearly half (46%) of teens and college-aged downloaders are interested in portable FM radio and 39% express interest being able to access satellite radio on their portable device. Older American downloaders are also interested in using their MP3 players to listen to radio broadcasts, with roughly one-third of 25 to 54 year old downloaders interested in FM and Satellite Radio capabilities (37% and 32%, respectively).

“These recent findings showing the desire for broader multimedia content on a port
able device could suggest we are reaching a turning point in which consumers are truly recognizing the value of anytime, anywhere multimedia content on-the-go,” continued Kleinschmit. “While this phenomenon may have initially centered on music, younger MP3 player owners are clearly interested in a wide variety of broader content options for their devices. Given this demographic group’s strong levels of device ownership and heightened frequency of usage, it would be safe to assume that this appetite will continue to develop and prosper as continued usage and subsequent reliance on portably-accessed, on-demand digital content grows.”


Data on music downloading behaviors was gathered from TEMPO: Keeping Pace with Digital Music Behavior, a quarterly shared-cost research study by Ipsos Insight examining the ongoing influence and effects of digital music around the world.
Data for general population statistics included with this release were collected between April 24 and May 2, 2006, via a nationally representative US sample of 1,112 respondents aged 12 and over. With a total sample size of 1,112, one can say with 95% certainty that the results are accurate to within +/- 2.94%.

Additional in-depth data on music downloaders were collected between January 13 and 24, 2006, via a representative sample of 1,517 US Downloaders aged 12 and over. With a total sample size of 1,517, one can say with 95% certainty that the results are accurate to within +/- 2.52%.

About Ipsos InsightIpsos Insight is a marketing research consultancy that provides solutions to Fortune 500 companies in the areas of market assessment, brand management, innovation and new product development. Our industry experts combine the discipline of marketing with the science of marketing research to offer expert consultation and strategic advice that builds powerful brands.

Our client service teams specialize in consumer products, technology, communications, health, pharmaceuticals, financial services, entertainment, retail, foodservice, agrifood, energy, utilities, and lottery and gaming. Ipsos Insight is an Ipsos company, a leading global survey-based market research group.

About IpsosIpsos is a leading global survey-based market research company, owned and managed by research professionals. Ipsos helps interpret, simulate, and anticipate the needs and responses of consumers, customers, and citizens around the world.

Member companies assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media. They measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos member companies offer expertise in advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, and public affairs research, as well as forecasting, modeling, and consulting. Ipsos has a full line of custom, syndicated, omnibus, panel, and online research products and services, guided by industry experts and bolstered by advanced analytics and methodologies. The company was founded in 1975 and has been publicly traded since 1999. In 2005, Ipsos generated global revenues of €717.8 million ($853.8 million U.S.).

Visit to learn more about Ipsos offerings and capabilities.

Canadians are a stressed-out bunch, poll finds
Canadians are a stressed-out bunch, poll finds
20/12/2006 10:50:45 AM
Contrary to perceptions that Canadians are a laid-back bunch who seldom experience the burdens of a stressful world, a new AP-Ipsos poll finds nothing is further from the truth.

Three of four Canadians who responded to the AP-Ipsos survey conducted in November reported they sometimes or frequently experience stress.
The figures show Canadians report about the same level of stress as their neighbours to the south.
In both Canada and the United States, six in 10 reported jobs and finances as the most stressful aspects of their lives.
About 76 per cent of Canadian respondents said they feel stress in their daily lives frequently or sometimes.
Canadians were most likely to name their jobs, at 32 per cent, or their finances, at 28 per cent, as the most important causes of that stress.
In the United States, finances were the most significant cause of stress, at 34 per cent, followed by jobs at 26 per cent.
Three-fourths of American respondents said they feel stress in their daily lives frequently or sometimes.
Dr. Mark Berber, an expert in depression, anxiety and stress at the University of Toronto, blames such stress levels on not getting enough sleep because of the rat race.
He told The Associated Press that a lack of public transportation in suburban Canada and the rising costs of living and mortgages in urban Canada are driving people into the suburbs.
Suburban Canadians, like their American neighbours, get out of bed ever earlier to commute to jobs in the city and face a return fight with traffic at the end of their day.
"Then they get home later, don't have time to spend with their children, and then get to bed later,'' he said.
The poll asked 1,000 respondents in each of nine countries -- Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain and the United States -- how often they felt that their lives were beyond their control.
One in 10 Canadians said they frequently felt their lives were beyond their control and one in four said they sometimes did.
Another University of Toronto scholar, stress expert Dr. Doug Saunders said the problem can be traced partly back to Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
"We realized for the first time how vulnerable our (shared) society could be,'' Saunders told the wire agency. "I think that in Canada, and particularly in Ontario, we realized that (again) with the SARS epidemic in 2003.''
That epidemic killed 44 people in Toronto and cost the city some $1 billion in lost tourism.
Another stress-provoking incident occurred in June when 18 men were arrested and charged with offences related to terror plots in southern Ontario.
That "just adds to the overall sense that people have to feeling vulnerable and uncertain," Saunders said.
Saunders said technology was also to blame for the job-related stress.
"The notion that technology was going to relieve us and allow us to live more relaxed lives and more leisurely lives . . . I think the impact of technology has been exactly the opposite,'' Saunders said.
The polls of about 1,000 adults in each of the countries were taken between Nov 13-26. Each poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Summary of international poll results:
With files from The Associated Press

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