Ged Parton, CEO
In this day and age, businesses can’t overlook the importance of an online research community! It allows easy access to a limitless world to connect and exchange knowledge with like-minded people. Online communities serve as a platform where users can find answers to any challenge with subject-matter experts who provide trusted resources. In fact, many businesses believe that building a brand community is one of the best ways to drive brand awareness, create exclusivity, and turn customers into their biggest fans. When used correctly, online communities function as a valuable extension of an organization’s marketing strategy.
With so many options available in the marketplace, it can be overwhelming and difficult to choose the right online community that fits both the customers’ necessities and business’ goals. There is a lot at stake; companies must consider the platform’s ease of use, scalability, flexibility, and accessibility, among other factors. But, most importantly, the online community platform must facilitate engagement through a distinctive and beneficial user experience that allows every member to create, function, and innovate.
This is precisely the proficiency that North American-based Maru Group brings to the table with its namesake platform, Maru/ HUB, which automatically combines multiple data streams into a single ecosystem in real time, allowing businesses to instantly analyze behavioral, transactional, and attitudinal information to deliver insights at speed. The secure, quality accredited insights platform with multi-language capability and scalable technology offers AI, machine learning, and System 1 applications to help clients understand consumers at a deep, emotional level and predict their behavior more accurately.
The Path to Maru’s Inception
Talking about the company’s inception, Ged Parton, CEO of Maru Group, says, “A decade ago, I spotted a great opportunity in the market research and insights industry: companies outside of the sector were beginning to use technology providers to deliver research and insights faster with higher accuracy than traditional insights agencies. However, these providers lacked the required understanding or market research knowledge needed to identify and deliver business-changing insights.” This prompted Parton to create Maru Group. “My vision was to establish an insights services company with technology at its heart; the idea was to build a business that is rooted in software, digitized, and uses tried and tested methodologies but is also crucially focused on the creation of new apps and capabilities that reflect insight techniques,” he adds.
Researchers and marketers are often under pressure to deliver timely, actionable insights in a cost-effective way. To that end, Maru Group brings intelligent, swift, and informed decision-making to one’s fingertips with a flexible service model. The firm provides clients with targeted, relevant insights at speed, enabling them to adapt their corporate strategy, then scale and innovate quickly to stay ahead of the competition. The Maru/HUB platform creates a technology ecosystem that is fit for theneeds of the marketplace. “We are a software advisory services company for online communities. We have been assisting enterprises in the U.S., Europe, and across international geographies for over 10 years now,” mentions Parton. The firm helps companies make informed decisions in real time by combining proprietary software, deep industry experience, unique IP in System 1 based apps and access to the best minds in research across a number of geographies.
An aspect that truly differentiates Maru Group from others in the industry is their unique combination of advisoryservices and software. “Our software has all of the functional characteristics and capabilities required to operate soup to nuts in terms of housing respondents in a community environment, having survey engine capabilities to ask various questions, managing different types of engagement elements like gamification, and so on,” adds Parton. Besides, the community environment also has an analysis engine to deconstruct and help the team interpret the results and a reporting engine that allows them to display the necessary information.
Unique and Flexible Service Model
The idea was to build a business that is rooted in software, digitized, and uses tried and tested methodologies but is also crucially focused on the creation of new apps and capabilities that reflect insight techniques
Maru is designed for all users— from researchers to marketers—so businesses can react to changing customer needs quickly by making confident business decisions. Maru’s technology, solutions, and capabilities are rooted in proven proprietary best-practices. “We’re researchers by nature and our investigations into respondent experiences and emotional decision-making shape our solutions and surveys. Our flexible service model enables clients to either choose self-serve in the platform directly to create, launch, and analyze projects or utilize knowledgeable support from insights experts,” informs Parton. Maru’s modular design makes the platform fully scalable; it can process tens of millions of survey completes per year.
At the core of everything Maru does is their ‘feel, behave, and think’ framework. What people say and do is often different. And, traditional research methodologies focus on attitudes and behaviors; the emotional aspect has long been ignored as a part of the decision-making process and the customer journey. In a nutshell, the industry has been too focused on what consumers ‘think,’ ignoring how people ‘feel’ and the dominant role emotions play in how consumers ‘behave.’
Maru’s experts believe that understanding the intersection of behavior and emotion is critical to establishing the strongest possible customer connections to drive betterbusiness results. Maru has a series of apps that reflect its IP and are embedded in the software, which includes implicit association testing, visual semiotics, AI-based tools that work with unstructured data to uncover elements by tapping into subconscious thought processes; and all through one engaging and gamified survey. “By evaluating research issues through both System 1 and System 2 lenses, we provide a connected and holistic view of consumer response. We deliver a radical new approach to close this Say-Do gap,” mentions Parton. Furthermore, the Maru platform has the broadest capability set available in the marketplace; it includes text analytics, advanced analysis and reporting, sophisticated survey authoring, and compelling data visualization tools in addition to market leading innovations in conversational AI, machine learning-based modeling of unstructured data, and video data capture.
Understanding the ‘Why’ Behind the ‘What’
Maru Group gets its name from ‘Kobayashi Maru,’ a training simulation in the fictional Star Trek universe designed to test the character of Starfleet Academy cadets in a no-win scenario. “The only way to beat the Kobayashi Maru is by reprogramming the simulation. In other words, it is about disruption and differentiation and that is what Maru Group is all about,” states Parton. Enterprises can use Maru to focus on five main components, the first of which is the subject matter or the value-adds that comes out of the community environment—often around innovation. Communities and the members within collaborate with clients to carry out co-creation exercises to provide feedback on the gap in the marketplace to help develop new offers and ideas and provide refinement feedback. “At Maru, innovation is key. We are constantly on the lookout for companies with innovative technologies, which can be incorporated into our platform, enabling us to provide clients with an enhanced range of technologies to complement our market-leading advisory services,” asserts Parton. Another critical situation where Maru helps is the ACID test decision-making. Enterprises often have a series of initiatives in play that they are looking for rapid and relevant feedback from customers on; this includes things like development of collateral material, new communication strategies, promotional campaigns, and so on. Maru enables enterprise to check whether these initiatives are motivating and appropriate for the brand. Furthermore, the platform offers real-time visibility into every project regardless of whether the project is self-serve or assisted or full-serve. Maru brings research projects together into one ecosystem.
At Maru, innovation is key. We are constantly on the lookout for companies with innovative technologies, which can be incorporated into our platform, enabling us to provide clients with an enhanced range of technologies to complement our market-leading advisory services
There are many commercial challenges where qualitative understanding is essentialfor successful decision-making. However, the fact that there is a lack of qualitative tools in comparison to quantitative tools makes things difficult. Maru Group is one of the few software providers that has developed both qualitative as well as the more traditional quantitative capabilities, which allows companies to add value.
Another notable aspect of Maru is that the platform conforms to the highest security standards and offers users complete peace of mind. Maru is flexible and secure enough to manage and capture feedback from clients’ own customer base, as well as wider samples and audiences. “We are ISO certified, our processes are GDPR compliant, and we have integrated data processing registers,” adds Parton.
Delivering Reliable and Reproducible Results
A testament to the expertise Maru Group brings to the table isits success story with a large broadcasting client who wanted a quick, easy and cost-effective way to reach their global audience and gather tactical and strategic feedback on everything from new shows, products and services through to brand partnerships and advertising feedback. The ability to connect with harder-to-reach audiences and to target projects to specific audiences was a key part of their needs. Maru created a fully profiled, global Insight Community (IC) to allow stakeholders to connect directly with their audience. And with a steady stream of recruitment, it has grown to become an invaluable source of insights. The IC allows projects to be targeted to specific markets and audiences of interest, gathering relevant and timely feedback. Projects range from quick-fire polls and surveys, through to gathering System 1 feedback, and qualitative activities such as focus groups and video diaries. The panel community has been utilized to enhance sales pitches for new advertising partners and data is used across the business, globally, feeding into initiatives and solutions. All research data and findings are integrated with other sources to provide the company with a more holistic view of their audience.
Maru Group’s stellar performance is backed by its robust team. “Our people represent some of the best minds in research who believe passionately in the work we do for our clients every day. We put our clients at the center of everything we do. We want our work to be of the highest possible standard, insights based on high quality data, results with integrity,” reveals Parton. The firm follows the spirit of Kaizen, continuous improvement, which permeates every part of the company; they continuously review, improve, and evolve methodologies and technologies to drive meaningful insights which create more value for clients. “Our developers have worked closely with experienced researchers, leading innovators, and world-renowned data scientists for over two decades to create a platform that combines flexibility with methodologies designed to uncover a more holistic understanding of consumer response,” adds Parton.
Through constant investment in cutting-edge software, which enhances Maru Group’s advisory skills, the company continues to test the boundaries and capabilities of the traditional research and insights industry. The firm’s future roadmap is dominated by two things: working on new capabilities that continue to reflect their research IP and delivering better and effective user experiences. To that end, one of the things that the firm is planning on is developing more tools and techniques that measure feelings and emotion. “It is critical that the platform continuously evolves in its delivery of an elegant and straightforward way for the user to interact, regardless of whether it is a professional user or an amateur. Our goal is to enhance the role of software in market research and insight generation,” wraps up Parton.