Welcome to the do good work podcast. Today we are talking to Darshan Mehta. Darshan is a CEO and founder of AI research a online focus group, a platform that enables companies to quickly and affordably extract insights from consumers. World Wide. Darshan is also the author of the book getting to a heart. Today's insights are tomorrow's facts to help business leaders understand and leverage changing consumer preferences and they're always changing. In addition to his role at AI research, Darshan is an adjunct professor at universities in Thailand, Sweden, France and the US to the course of his work Darshan has traveled to more than 80 countries, and has been recognized in publications such as Forbes, Inc, the Journal of advertising, research, and quirks. Darshan, thank you so much for being on a roll. Great to be on here. Thanks a lot. I'm going to ask a question like a tea in the tea ball or knock it out of the park. But I do want to kind of set up this premise because I find entrepreneurs founders doing this incorrectly. And I kinda want to make it really paint an obvious answer, but also get your insights around the answer. The question is, is when we're either creating a new product for the for our market for industry, or we're creating a new campaign? Is it best for it to be from within the organization to understand, hey, well, that's what our customers want? What does the market want? And come and come up with new ideas, your internal brainstorms? Or should we directly ask the market and see what do you want? And look at the trends? How do we marry both? And what is the best way of doing that?
I think you hit the nail on the head when you say you have to actually marry both, right? Oftentimes, for example, you're going to be an expert in your field, or your technology, right? Because you see what trends are happening, technologically and so on. But then you also have to have a pulse of what's going on with the marketplace, and how people are going to use that and adapt to it. I'll give you an example. Like I think, I don't know, Steve Jobs, but I'm kind of surmising some things here. Right? When he came up with the iPod, he clearly was in the industry knew that technology wise, the cost for hard drives was coming down. And then you can fit more and more on there and that it's becoming cheaper. They were not by far the first mp3 player out there. They also knew as a passion out there that people have with music. And one of the challenges was, how do you take your entire CD collection with you, right? I remember taking it up all my CDs, and then having to swap it out stuff. But he realized the hard drive prices are coming down. So I can actually put 1000 songs in your pocket. You remember he did that presentation? That was like a wow moment, right. But I think it was the merging of knowledge of technology and his business and his industry, combining that with what is out there as a pain point in the marketplace, right? People can't take all their music. So it's really the combination of the two. But sometimes making that marriage work perfectly, you're going to ultimately have to talk to your customers. Because one way or another, your marketplace is going to speak to you right? Your choice D speak sooner, or listen to them sooner or later.
I know that I'm going to say that again. Because this is very powerful. And this is I find these these dichotomies in different areas of business, and it's your right, you're going to talk to the market one way and another one day, but it's either Are you going to be proactive about it or reactive about it, you're going to wait too late. And that's really important. I like going back. So I've had a chance to meet Steve Blank, and like the whole lean startup world, and stuff like that. But when it comes to getting customer research, like you know, it's, it sounds simple. I like to know, how can we proactively create strategies, and even ongoing touch points, to know what our market thinks to be in the mind of the market besides running like quarterly reports or quarterly brand search? Like how can we have something even if you're a startup, or even if you're like a nicely cushioned venture backed startup? How can you set up these systems in place to continually outreach to the market and get that feedback coming through? What have you felt works?
So I've been very fortunate, I've actually been in consulting for over 20 years now, for branding and market research. And as a result, I've done both quantitative and qualitative research. There's only two methods that Barry was on two surveys or focus groups. And the one thing I've found is that a lot of people want to get it the why. And that is what makes people act are triggers that make them do things or not do things, right. And I find that most people often going the survey route, because that's what they're familiar with. And almost all of us have taken surveys. But here's the problem. A lot of us don't often come up with the best questions or answer choices, because we're not part of the target market. So I often recommend actually having the conversations first with your customers, and then you'll have better answers, choices and questions for your target market. actually quantify. But the first step is really getting at that why. But the challenge always been, that's been too expensive. I mean, some of the most successful companies in the world have always done this, they talk to the customers find out what's going on. And then they know exactly how to quantify that and get to product market fit. And so companies that can do that well, and nowadays, you can do it for a lot less money and make it more affordable. And that's partly what I'm trying to do with, you know, my software and stuff is trying to make it much more affordable and easier for people to have these ongoing conversations. And the good news is with the internet now, it makes it much easier to do this on scale.
Interesting, let's talk about this talk about scale. Because that that to me, I mean, it's either focus groups or one on one conversations, you kind of need both like the the one on ones with the group settings. But let's talk about doing it at scale. How can we, theoretically speaking, just interview 1000 customers? And then right now we're filming in like, a little bit late mid q3 2021. Let's talk about I want to interview 1000 customers. And by the end of q3, or q4, I want the reply. I want to know, what's the poles? How do we how would we do that?
Sure. So focus groups, I still argue that it's best to have met anywhere from 10 to 15 people per group. And I'll tell you why. That's because the whole point of a focus group is to actually dive deeper into a topic. And what's interesting is kind of like, imagine stuff at a cocktail party, right? And then you go there, you have a conversation with people. But if you have like one or two people, it's okay. But if you get like three or four, they're all focused on this topic. You're all like, Oh, that's really cool. This is what you said. So you're you're loving, it allows you to go deeper into the topic, and you will feed off of each other. And that's what allows you to get into those kernels of thought, or that are really, in your subconscious is oftentimes not really thinking about these things, you just, you know, 95% of our actions are done by our subconscious, right? These are things that just happens, we feel something thing, something, but we haven't articulated that thought. But that's why discussion among people that are focused on a topic allows you to deep dive, then you're saying, Oh, yeah, that's really interesting. I never thought about that. But then you feed off of each other. It's okay, if you disagree, that's not a problem. The point is that you're doing a deep dive naturally in the conversation. So that's, that's where the real value, that's where the insights are.
And then you're starting to extract. So when we do that, like that the 1015 people multiple times throughout the week, multiple researchers going at once, how do we how do we combat the cost of that if I have a full time staff person if I don't have a full time? staff person?
Great question. So that's where platforms like the one I'm with, you can actually do this on a regular basis, as a cost is considerably lower than traditional outlets or traditional methods. And so I think it could actually get to the point where you could even do microfocus scripts, for example, because right now to do focus groups, it takes, you know, a fair amount of time and investment, you want to get them for two hours. But if it costs less, you can do on a regular basis. And I think to go on scale, for example, let's say if you and I were spoke, spoke perfect Chinese, and we want to launch a project in China, you could actually do the focus groups from here, we have people in China, as opposed to going there physically to do it. So you could actually do these things in multiple languages, too. So that's where you get, you know, you can avoid geographic bias or cultural bias to get feedback from different subsets.
When we get this feedback, and when we're trying to, obviously with product market fit, but also even with brand development, how. And just to make it very clear for the premise of what brand is brand is the feeling that you get when you think about a company or a slogan or a logo, like that's the feeling that's the brand capturing it. And you can obviously influence that in someone else. Now, when it comes to repositioning in the marketplace, making sure that your brand is up to date, obviously, you don't want to change it every week or every month or quarter. But how do we take those insights that we get from focus groups or even from these research studies? And how can we apply them to either our tactical day to day or into our overarching annual strategies? What are some of the ways that we can take that data and actually put it to good use and reinvest it?
Sure. I think branding is one of the best ways to differentiate, because that's what's gonna make you successful. So the first part of brain is really you need to decide what it is you want to be. And as you also feel with what it is you can be right. And then you basically set your Northstar for you and your brand. And then you have these various data points, whether it's focus groups, surveys, or ongoing feedback, even on social channels, and you start measuring, you start at a baseline, and then you want to measure how close are you getting to that? For example, when I mentioned Volvo to you, what do you think of like what are the types of seatbelts right now involve first came out, they weren't always known for that worldwide write, that took some time, but now they own that mind, share in your in your mind, right? And that's something that so you need to kind of ask yourself, if there were three adjectives that would want to search With my brand, what would they be? And then you basically plot a plan to get there, right. And that takes some time. But the thing is, once you're focused on that, and you actually deliver, and you're true to your brand, attributes and qualities, you'll get there.
Let's not dive into like the nitty gritty, but I want to kind of frame where what you just set out because I think it's really important to kind of understand the overarching strategy or framework and then we can dive into like, how to do it. But what I'm hearing here correctly, and I want to make sure that our audience knows you define your brand. Let's put that at the top level like an overarching arc. This is the brand This is what I want it to be. If it's in the healthcare, cosmetics, if it's in the IT tech AI, this is my brand, define it. What's the feeling? make it really simple like I, it's, I don't know, I want to say rude the way that I said this, but I always say make it stupid, simple. Like if someone is only on four hours asleep, does like seen 1000. Like articles already make it so simple, that it's clickable. So let's talk about that's the overarching brand. And then you have different, let's call it data points in the market to identify what is the market actually saying and that feeds up to a new baseline? What is it that I said that I am? What are the what others say that I am and from there, you can take those insights to strategically reposition or reword or try to get closer to the brand ideals, that kind of what we're getting at here.
Exactly. And I think part of what you're, if you kind of go back to the often the inspiration to a product or service, right? I mean, for really successful entrepreneurs, it's usually because they had a pain point, right? There's an I hate the way this is done, you know, this is a problem for me. And that's great. And so if you're actually set out to solve a problem, now think about what exactly are you solving? Or what are the opportunities there that exists in the marketplace that others are doing? And so how are you going to serve it differently? Or better? And then, you know, find out what are the brand attributes that you want to associate with? Right? And that's when you start talking to customers, and saying, This is what I'm thinking with the product and the attributes? Are they aligning with what the market thinks that might be an opportunity out there? If there is great, you know, then you have some good alignment, and you can further deepen that. But if not, there's a little bit of a mismatch against you, at least you get that feedback early on. And you can alter what you need to without changing your whole trajectory in terms of where you want to go ultimately, right. Yeah, but you need to align that for sure.
Yeah, and you're getting feedback, obviously, from like what we talked about either using a software like AI research or like market, you know, study groups, etc, but also social listening tools. And that's why I don't want to dive into like the plethora of tools that are out there. I think if you know the framework, you can apply any tool that fits your budget, you need your your assessment, but we get those things to identify, you know, not only what the market wants now, but it might also open loops for like trends that are happening in the marketplace. How do you, I don't wanna say combative? How do you deal with trends like to know, is this just like a fad? It's gonna die in nine months? Or is it actual trend that's going to live on over a year, two years? Or it's gonna happen? It could get bigger in the next 10 years?
Yeah. And there's always going to be things that actually influence brands and how people think anyways, right? I mean, there's certain things you're going to do. But there's also societal trends that are happening that are beyond your control. For example, I think now, post COVID, a lot of people are reevaluating how they spend their time doing various things, right. I mean, I think that focus of their time is very different than it was a year and a half, two years ago, right? I think everybody's saying either my personal or business life, I want to make every second every minute count of some type of value. That's a big change. Yeah, no. Now, you know that that may change again later on. But that's something that's going to affect a lot of people. So for example, how that translates to brands, I think more and more people are buying experiences, versus just products now. And if we can also know or get an experience, but also somehow help society be better, right? Like if the product sustainable, or eco friendly or any of these things, in addition to providing great experience, it's more likely to be more successful.
Absolutely. And I think it goes back to like, like the classics with Peter Drucker is that a business or a business model has is an organism within society. So you can't just start like, Okay, what are my goals? What do I want to do? It's like, what are the needs of the market? What are the changes I want to make? And I think companies that focus on mission first, like legacy, first, their people want something to roof or they want something to back for, and they want something that makes a difference. And I think either you want to work for these types of companies. And we've been called, like, I don't want to talk about the whole trends of like, remote workforces, and people like leaving their jobs because there's no mission. There's no core values. But also, this is really important for us to understand we're actually creating a product or service or repositioning the way that we address our marketplaces. This is pretty interesting. I kind of want to ask like one final question. This is a huge curveball, so we can complete save revel. It's like step back.
More fun. So the last thing we talked about, and that is that there's one thing entrepreneurs need to know is that in any given situation, There's always a positive, negative, and there's always an opportunity and a cost, right? For example, even in COVID, right, made tremendous destruction on many fronts, right? But at the same time has created a huge opportunity for tremendous reconstruction. Right? I mean, people are more adaptive to wanting to change things and do them online or, you know, have technological losers. So, I think you need to recognize that some of these things that are totally out of your control, they're gonna happen no matter what. But recognize that there's always opportunities in any given situation. And good entrepreneurs knew that somehow, if they can make their product or service adapt to what's happening in the marketplace, but still stick with their core values and, and so on. There's still an opportunity there.
100%. And I think it's like not not. And I love the way that you said that, because it's looking at the good. Like, obviously, when difficult situations happen, we can that we have to definitely be empathetic and understand and be there to support but also say, What's the good that can come out of this. And I think that takes courage. And it also takes like very strong leadership from the audience listening now, your team members, your leaders, your department heads, whatever. It takes a lot of Leadership Initiative to say, what is the good that can come out? And how can we create more of that good? How can we elongate that good? Or how can we make sure that we take that good thing or that opportunity? And help more people? Because you're completely right.
Yeah, absolutely. And that's one thing I've just, there's just certain laws of the universe that just exist, I think, right? And that is everything has a positive negative, right. I mean, we have a North Pole, South Pole, you know, polarity, just exist. So just recognize that there's definitely some, you know, bad things that happen. But there's also the other side of the coin, you know, that don't neglect because there might be some real opportunities there.
No, absolutely not. And I love that, that that frame of thinking to go to like the last curveball question, this is something that I've been pretty curious about and understanding, especially with your, with your insights in markets and trends. How can brands right now prepare for web 3.0? How can we prepare for what's coming with a lot of the decentralization? A lot of the transparency, a lot of the autonomy, like, how can we obviously get the feedback right now? And the insights? And what can what are some suggestions if you have this research that startups or brands can do right now to prepare for web three, I think
this is something that's always going to be there. And even maybe more so with web three, right. And that is you need to develop deeper connections with your customers. And the beauty is now a technology can do that many different ways. And at scale, and you can customize your product and services, even at scale as well, much faster and easier. But the key is developing deeper relationships. Now, there's another core truth, I think, with the internet. At the end of the day, the internet has amazing things, but it really does one thing really well. And that is basically connects people, right? I mean, even you look at Airbnb, you look at Uber is basically connecting people to do something that they're both interested in doing. Right? So and the thing is, I think where people should come you should really think about not just Are we going to be in a digital world or a physical world, it's always going to be both. Because we're humans, and we need physical worlds, we need our things as humans, but then we also want other things to basically save us time, money or make things easier. And so I would say that, you know, I would argue that if you can do one of those three things, right, if you can save people time, money, or make it easier, you're more likely to be successful. However, if you could do all three, I think you then have 3x chance of being successful. Right, and then I would actually add a plus one. And that is if you can evoke an emotion. Right? So if you can do save people time, money and make something easier, I think you're going to be three times likely to be successful. But I would argue if you tap into an emotion that's there, now you're talking, I don't know 6x 10x
accelerate, you accelerate those three wheels are those add cards to the triangle. And going back to the main principle here, like I know that you know what, three is just something that's happening a trend, but you've kind of nailed it on the head saying it's all about relationship. Humans will do business with humans or cars with humans, like we're not at the point where computers are just taking things over. But I think that's it's so prevalent, that the better the relationship and the brand of the emotional attachment that you have with your audience with your network. Regardless if we somehow end up in Mars or something crazy with web three, you know what I mean? Like regardless of how things may, they'll still have that attachment and I think that the strong brands and leaders are taking note and taking advantage but also focusing on being proactive today. Even during like these different shifts that are happening.
We humans are complex creatures. You know, I mean we have emotions we have you know, we're not a simple thing and even our our you AI is quite interest However, I would say AI is more automated intelligence, artificial intelligence right now. Oh, yeah, it doesn't quite have that emotional component that we as humans, it's a big part of being human right? Is emotions, you know, the good, the bad. I mean, all of it. It's just part of being human. And those need to be factored in somehow. And that can all be done completely, you know, in the digits and the zeros and ones.
No, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, as are shown for our audience here today, what's the best place for people to go to for one, thank you for this episode, reach out to reach out to you and learn a little bit more about what you're up to?
Well, we're all thank you very much. I love this opportunity. And I was looking forward to talking to you and I knew what a really good conversation and thank you very much. The best way to reach me is that you can go to AI research comm or I can always email me directly at dm at AI research Comm.
We'll put those links to your LinkedIn on the show notes as well, as long as as well as with the other app that you've developed in your book. But again, thank you so much for being on.