1984 was an important year, with many new products, brands and marketing campaigns introduced. To name just a few:
- Apple introduced the Macintosh computer with an iconic TV ad that aired during the Super Bowl.
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were introduced as pizza-eating crime-fighters in their own comic book.
- Alex Trebek began hosting Jeopardy!
- Wendy’s famous tagline (“Where’s the beef?!”) went viral – or would have had social media been available in 1984!
So it is fitting that L&E Research was also founded in 1984. Taking its place among these other blockbuster business events, L&E has grown to be a regional staple in the qualitative research industry.
Current CEO Brett Watkins bought L&E Research in 2004 from the original founders. As the son of a marketing research consultant, Brett had quite literally grown-up in the industry. Brett understood where the industry under-performed and his plan for L&E was to create growth and profitability by applying technology to the qualitative research industry. “My wife and I had worked in the business enough to know that technology could bring greater efficiency and really create an engine that could grow the business. Originally, we thought we would be selling the technology to other qualitative research companies, but the degree of customization necessary made that infeasible. We have had much greater success in applying the technology to our business, and then buying existing qualitative research facilities and improving operations and financials by introducing our technology into these under-performing businesses.” Watkins identifies three ways technology has contributed to L&E’s business success:
- Using Technology to Create Better Business Metrics. “Every business has certain data points that you have to keep your eye on. So we created a scorecard of the critical metrics.” Running the business by monitoring performance on these key metrics keeps everyone focused on what it will take to remain successful.
- Using Technology for Better Recruiting. L&E’s reputation for quality recruiting is enviable, and technology is the key to making the process more efficient. “Finding the right respondents is essential for successful marketing research. And finding the right respondents is like filtering material through a funnel. The closer we can get to the right respondent at the top of the funnel, the faster we can get the right respondent out the bottom of the funnel, and seated around the focus group table.” L&E has improved their recruiting processes, their panel databases, and their search options to bring more qualified respondents to the party. “And, because we have the right metrics, I can tell you that more first-time respondents joined our panel in 2014 than in any of the previous four years.”
- Hire great people, and then get out of their way. “I firmly believe that my team knows what they need to do. As in the Ritz Carlton’s motto – “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” – L&E staff knows how to make our clients successful.” L&E has customized customer relationship management software that ensures that each client is treated well, as well as the guest in a Ritz Carlton! “When we learn something about a client, it gets added to the CRM, and then we rely on that information the next time. My team knows how to ask the questions, spend the money, and then make a record of the experience so we can do it better the next time.”
The process is working: L&E Research has grown from one facility in Raleigh, NC, to a total of eight facilities throughout the region – with more to come: “We have identified several markets for additional growth, and we are always on the look-out for the right business opportunity.” And those lucky communities will get a great new neighbor: L&E’s on-going commitment to community service will make a difference in their new markets, as it has in their existing markets. L&E calls it the Multiplier Effect and it has resulted in the company making tens of thousands of dollars in donations and in-kind contributions available to nonprofits in their communities. “That’s just the way I was brought up. As a business owner, you have to give back to the community that supports you.” L&E’s strategy is to continue acquiring more facilities in secondary markets, leveraging their strong technology for better recruiting, better client service and increased efficiency. In addition to improving the operation of each individual facility, developing a network or family of facilities introduces more best practices and assets that can be leveraged. So if you find yourself on Jeopardy! and Alex Trebek’s clue reads: “Innovative qualitative research leader applying technology to enhance people processes”, the answer can only be “Who is L&E Research, Alex?”