Interview with Darshan Mehta – You Have Your Insights, Now What? – Episode #82

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  • Darshan is the founder of iResearch.com, a platform that allows users to quickly extract insights from consumers throughout the world, and ConnectQik.com, an app that allows users to make instant connections and take part in engaging interactions.

    Drawing from more than 20 years of marketing strategy and research experience, Mehta has also authored a book, “Getting to Aha! Today’s Insights Are Tomorrow’s Facts,” to help business leaders understand and leverage changing consumer preferences.

    Questions and topics we covered include:

    • What are insights and what are they supposed to do?
    • Why does marketing strategy (how we approach it) change so much? What can we do to help ourselves adapt to change?
    • How have business presentations changed since Darshan began teaching this as a professor in two universities?
    • What is the best way to facilitate the question-and-answer section of a business presentation?
    • And more!

     

Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto 0:01  

Hello everyone and welcome to the people digital marketing with your host Kenny Soto and today’s special guest Darshan Mehta. Hi Darshan, how are you? Hey, Kenny, great to be here. 

 

So before recording, I gave you a little background on the podcast. And I think the best way to start is for us to get a little bit of background about you, as a person and as a professional. So my first question for you is what got you interested in the world of digital marketing?

 

Darshan Mehta 0:32  

Well, I’ll give you my I have a full background. I was born in India, but I came to the US when I was four years old. And I’ve grown up in an entrepreneurial household, all my life. And so in college, I really liked working on case studies. 

 

And as a result of that, I went into management consulting. And then I gravitated more and more toward marketing, advertising, branding, and market research. And I’d say like, in 9698, I started dabbling with online research methodologies. 

 

I wasn’t sure how they were going to be, and I started playing with them. And part of it is my friends accused me of having the extra Indian gene for technology. I was drawn to technology, and I’ve liked it ever since. And now I’m getting ready to launch a SASS platform to allow people to do online, on-demand focus groups, anytime, anywhere, in any language. Can you talk more about

 

Kenny Soto 1:24  

That platform?

 

Darshan Mehta 1:27  

About the platform? Yeah, sure. So you know, there are basically two ways to do research or gain insights. One is through surveys, which most of us are familiar with and have taken, and others are focus groups. 

 

This is where you actually have conversations, to get a deep dive into the why. In other words, why do people do what they do? What drives their behavior? And this is something that really, the way best way to do is to have conversations. And you know, a lot of times when you have open-ended questions on surveys, most people don’t answer them. 

 

But with a conversation, especially when you have a focus group, on a particular topic, with a lot of people interested in the same area, you can do deep dives, which then start revealing all kinds of kernels of insights, which is really quite amazing.

Kenny Soto 2:14  

I like that you mentioned insight because I think that’s something that may not necessarily be clear cut, or clearly defined in a marketer. First few years in the profession. So can you define in your own words, what an insight is, and what are insights supposed to do? 

 

Darshan Mehta 2:36  

Sure, insights, I think a lot of times people stop at facts or observations. And they’re not just that, it’s that plus many other things, for example, technological trends, societal trends, and cultural things. The best example I can give you is a really good comedian. 

 

You know, those comedians where you’re listening to them, and they sit and you say, Oh, my God, I never thought of that. But that’s so true. That is an insight right there taking something from over here, putting it together in a way that you may not have articulated it. But you’ve always felt it or kind of thought in the back of your mind. 

 

And insight is one of those things that is articulated in a manner that tells you there’s a core truth here. And this is what’s really driving it. And that, to me is a real insight. And what you’re trying to do in these focus groups or these conversations, is to tap into people’s subconscious. 

 

Because 95% of the decisions we make are from our subconscious, we as humans can process a tremendous amount of information from what we see taste, smell, feel, and just kind of our intuition, right? And so all those things are kind of in our subconscious, even when we’re talking to someone meeting someone for the first time that they helped drive decisions. 

 

And what these conversations do is similar to let’s say, you’re at a cocktail party, right? And there were some people in your group and you started talking about a topic and everyone is doing a deep dive. And you start saying, oh my god, I never thought of that out and you feed off of each other. 

 

That’s what you’re trying to recreate. And when you do that, people started tickling the things they feel would drive them, and so on and so forth. And that’s where the opportunities are to get insights that ultimately drive innovation, differentiation, and ultimately, a competitive advantage.

 

Kenny Soto 4:20  

Insights and to a greater point, focus groups aid in the ongoing refining of the marketing strategy, but considering the fact that you have so much history in the marketing field, I wanted to know, from your perspective, how has approaching marketing strategy changed over time from your observations?

 

Darshan Mehta 4:48  

Well, I think you’re seeing more and more of a convergence of, you know, not just strategy and tactics, but also experience. I recently released a book called Getting to AHA why Today’s insights are tomorrow’s facts. 

 

And one of the things I discussed in there is that people I don’t think are just buying products anymore. They’re actually buying experiences. And they bring experiences they may even have from another product or category. But they’re expecting the equivalent or better experience, maybe in your industry, your product, or category. 

 

And the other thing that’s really changed is, of course, the dissemination of information, and the conversation about your brand or product, traditionally, has always been a one-way communication where you advertise. 

 

And people, you know, might send you feedback. But now with the internet, and social media, there’s a conversation going on about your product, whether you want to be in it or not. So your choice is no longer do you want to have a conversation, your choice, do you want to be part of that conversation. 

 

And I would encourage you to be part of that conversation, even if they’re negative comments because I think people realize things can happen. But it’s not that something bad happens. They’re really trying to see how you handle when something bad happens.

 

Kenny Soto 6:02  

To a certain degree, it’s not just a marketing strategy. It’s marketing, overall conversations with customers, the tactics we use, all of these things are going to change again, and again and again. How can marketers and to a greater extent, business leaders and professionals in general, continuously adapt to change, as it continues to get faster and faster?

 

Darshan Mehta 6:25  

That’s why I think these conversations are very important. In all honesty, I’ve been doing this for a while. And one of the things you see after a while is that you learn a lot from these conversations. And also you just get a better understanding of human nature. 

 

So even when you start making some more calculated or intuitive steps, without research or anything later on with business strategy or decisions, your gut is going to be better and more informed. 

 

Because you have a better understanding of your customers and human nature. However, I still strongly recommend having ongoing conversations with your customers, because I think researcher insights and especially focus groups have often been criticized that customers can’t give you a solution. 

 

That may be true. But I can tell you one thing where I would not argue with customers their pain points are the things that bother them were the things that drive them crazy, because they may not know the solution, but they know something that’s driving them crazy. And that’s where you come in as an expert on your product per category or industry. 

 

And say you know what, I know what they’re saying, but I know how to solve it. And that’s where the opportunities for anything innovation and differentiation really occur and can give you a big competitive advantage.

 

Kenny Soto 7:36  

Tell us more about your book.

 

Darshan Mehta 7:39  

Sure, it’s, it’s something that over the years, I’ve learned, I’ve worked with a lot of clients to do surveys and focus groups. But I’ve often found that most clients are still dissatisfied with their efforts because they still can’t get the why. 

 

And part of the problem is that having focus groups in the past has been very expensive. And that’s what I’m trying to change with my platform to make it much more affordable. And for you to do it on a regular basis. And so I’m talking about really how to get in getting those insights, and encouraging people to have more and more conversations. 

 

And there are a variety of examples throughout the book that I think can serve as guidance, but also maybe inspiration to go out and do it on your own.

 

Kenny Soto 8:20  

You’ve had experience as an adjunct professor in two universities, and I’m doing research on how you have taught, among other things, business presentations, how have business presentations, in your experience changed over time? Would you teach the same things, knowing what you know, today? And how marketing and business operations, in general, have changed as well?

 

Darshan Mehta 8:48  

Sure, I think there’s a handful there. And let me try to break it down a little bit. I teach because I actually enjoy it. I’ve learned that when you actually practice is one thing when you actually teach you to learn something from a 360 perspective. 

 

And you know, young people are always asking great questions and challenging you and kind of come from a clean slate. So it’s always keeping you on your toes. So But going back to presentations, I think, and even just business in general, to be honest with you, the one thing that’s never going to change is the human connection. 

 

I mean, even the internet in terms of technology, ultimately, what has it really done for us is basically connected, like-minded people for certain things. 

 

Let’s just take Uber for example. Right? I mean, taxes existed before, but they just made the experience easier, better, more interesting, different, but also much more frictionless. But at the end of the day, they basically by combining a buyer and a seller, the same thing with Airbnb, so, but all of that still boils down to the reviews, the people, the guests, and everything. It’s always going to be that human connection. 

 

And that human connection boils down to communicating and in some business presentations and things I’ve always been there are no slides or decks. And I think sometimes people get a little bit too, their eyes glaze over with the amount of information that’s often in these decks. And I think people are trying to pack too much in there. 

 

So that’s one of the things I do in this workshop is talk about what you should keep and not keep in your presentation in terms of visuals. But, you know, keep in mind that you’re always going to be limited in terms of how much people can retain. And so the other thing is also that we worked on in the workshop is q&a, because you’re gonna have a great presentation, but a bad q&a. And it can totally kill the entire presentation. 

 

But the other can happen as well, you can have a solo presentation, but a great q&a. And you can save it. And that’s something a lot of people don’t get off and train on is q&a. And that one of my favorite parts is q&a. 

 

Kenny Soto 10:48  

Let’s dive into q&a a little bit more. I’ve run workshops in the past, and I’ll be honest, I shied away from q&a Only because I don’t know how to prepare myself or the audience on how to have that back and forth. What are some best practices when it comes to preparing, and facilitating adding q&a to the workshop session?

 

Darshan Mehta 11:11  

Okay, so I just want to clarify, we’re talking about a q&a in terms of a presentation because questions for focus groups are a little bit different. So I just want to make sure Okay, yeah, no problem. So in a presentation, the one thing I always tell people upfront, be prepared for dumb and stupid questions. 

 

I mean, be prepared for a question on something you just spoke about. And your job is not to come back with your idiot tone of voice look, or anything. Your job is to act like it’s an excellent question, and come back and address the question. Because oftentimes, a q&a is actually an opportunity that someone in the audience may take to highlight themselves, and how smart and how great they are. 

 

But what you don’t want to do is in any way, shape, or form attack a questioner. Because what happens if you attack the question or the audience will side with the question? However, if you have people that are attacking you, as presented, and they keep attacking, and an interesting thing happens, the audience will side with the presenter, and come to help save them. And that’s what you want. So be prepared for dumb and stupid questions. 

 

But always listen to the question. Don’t assume you know the question. Because part of what you’re doing is making sure you listen to it. But the other is, you want to make sure you actually have a little bit of time to address it. 

 

And it gives you some time to think about it. And so you want to always never interrupt someone asking their question. And oftentimes people will ask compound questions. So if you can break them up into pieces that are more manageable for you. And that also allows you some time to think and articulate your answer as you’re going along.

 

Kenny Soto 12:54  

Yeah. And to your point, I think sometimes I’m an interviewer. So it happens to me as well. We naturally use compound questions sometimes. So it is a good point that you mentioned that sometimes parsing them, and figuring out what’s the order, you want to address the parts of a question. definitely help. In regards to your history as a founder, you founded multiple companies. 

 

And I’m sure there’s one if not many threads, holistic themes if you will when it comes to marketing those companies. What are some of those threads or themes that you’ve been able to identify? And I asked this question because I’m sure there are lessons that you’ve taken from one that applies to the others.

 

Darshan Mehta 13:40  

Yeah, I’ve actually really thought about and over experience, I’ve realized that basically if you can do three plus one, your chances of being very successful, increase exponentially. And what do I mean by that? Usually, if you can save people time, and money, or make it easier, your chances of being successful are pretty good. 

 

If you can do one, let’s say, I think your chance of being successful is 1x. If you can do two, it’s too active to do three, all three of them, right, save time, and money or make it easier, I think you have a 3x chance of being successful. 

 

However, if you can evoke an emotion that can change the 612. I don’t know what the x is, because it depends on the emotion. And once you do that, if you encounter a product or service that evokes emotion in you, what is likely the first thing you’re going to want to do? I’m curious, what would you do?

 

Kenny Soto 14:35  

On the spot here?

 

Darshan Mehta 14:38  

Most likely, you’re going to share it with somebody else.

 

Kenny Soto 14:41  

Yeah, word of mouth. That would probably be the first thing.

 

Darshan Mehta 14:43  

You’re gonna, you’re gonna want to say I gotta tell my friend about it. I gotta tell my family, I gotta tell somebody. I see that this is really cool. This is what I experienced. And that’s because of the emotion evoked and so if you can do that your chance of being successful, increases exponentially.

 

Kenny Soto 15:00  

I have a follow-up here because I’m trying to think of it as not a detractor, but more so as a rebuttal to the answer just to dig deeper. What do you say to the marketer who says, cynically, that emotion can be measured?

 

Darshan Mehta 15:20  

I actually don’t know what emotion you’re trying to evoke. But you can measure it nowadays. Because if you evoke an emotion, a positive experience and people start sharing it. Now, it’s very measurable. Before it wasn’t as measurable right? Now you can measure it in terms of comments, shares, and all kinds of things. But ultimately, the ultimate measure is, you know, in terms of people purchasing your product and service, and also loyalty.

 

Kenny Soto 15:46  

Yeah, and you can probably, ideally, talk to your customers to know what those emotions are, from their own languages, excuse me from their own words, by hosting focus groups, and actually engaging with them on a direct level, not just as numbers on the screen.

 

Darshan Mehta 16:04  

But I think you bring up an interesting point, I think that is that a lot of companies and a lot of people, including myself, at times get too involved in KPIs and numbers, certainly, and we lose the fact that basically, anything we do if you can humanize your product, service or brand, you’re just more likely to make that connection with the consumer. 

 

And if you can make that connection, you’re going to build a relationship. And if you have a good relationship, you’re going to foster loyalty and word of mouth. And those are all the ultimate KPIs if you really think about it because if you can drive that, and if you can concentrate on that, the rest will follow. Yeah.

 

Kenny Soto 16:42  

And the first brand that comes to my mind when you say loyalty, and word of mouth, for some reason, it’s always Nike, because if you think about Nike, they’ve been around for decades. And the reason why they’ll be around for decades in the future is that they know how to tap into culture, and emotion, and make it so that they’re always part of a conversation. 

 

So much so that the loyalty is so strong that if someone at least in my social circle is wearing Adidas will make fun of them. Because it’s always about Nike Nikes being the best. Alright, I have two more questions for you. What resources do you use, as a business leader or marketer, to stay up to date, in the world of marketing,

 

Darshan Mehta 17:22  

I read a lot of different sources, from domestic to international. And more than anything, it’s not necessarily just tactics or strategies about marketing, it’s really trying to get an idea of where the shifts and things are going on on a larger level. 

 

And especially now, post-COVID, I think consumers have really changed much more, I think judicious and careful with their time and their money, and what they do with it, they want to not only spend on quality products and services that give good value. 

 

But they also want to see if that decision can make a difference in the world as well. So I think if you can be a good pulse of all these changes, and flows, you’re gonna make better decisions in terms of your product services, and also how you communicate with them.

 

Kenny Soto 18:09  

What would you say from the top of your head, because I know I’m putting you on the spot here? Well, you say are like your three favorite experts that you’d like to follow when it comes to marketing.

 

Darshan Mehta 18:17  

There’s a lot I mean, I couldn’t narrow it down to one. And it’s not just experts more than anything, sometimes I read great things on really good writers on medium, right? And they have a good perspective or a good way to analyze something. 

 

So I think it’s really a variety of different sources that you can look at and guide you. But more than anything just gives you a better sense, and a pulse of what’s happening with people around you and customers and society, and so forth.

 

Kenny Soto 18:49  

Got it. But last question for you Darshan, it’s hypothetical, because time machines don’t exist. But if they did, and you can go back in time, 10 years into the past, knowing everything you know, right now, how would you accelerate the speed of your career,

 

Darshan Mehta 19:06  

I would have been pursuing insights even earlier than I would have been, and I would have had a much more focused approach to it. If I had the knowledge I know now then I’d be even better at it. And that’s part of really what I was writing in the book and the premises. 

 

Why Today’s insights are tomorrow’s facts. If you think about all the things that are around in our world, at one point was an insight someone created. They didn’t always exist there. And the perfect example is looking at our smartphones. Right? They weren’t always part of our life. I mean, they’ve been around since basically, the mid to late 2000s. We had cell phones and stuff before but a smartphone really, and look how it’s changed our lives. 

 

And that’s an insight someone had and took it to a whole nother level and now has completely changed our lives and this it becomes a fact like it’s just given but keep in mind a lot of these things that we part of our normal world with someone had an insight thought about it created it. And that’s what I’m saying if you can have these conversations and have an insight into an innovative product service, you can be a leader in that area before it actually becomes a fact.

 

Kenny Soto 20:13  

Darshan. If anyone wants to say hello to you online, where can they find you?

 

Darshan Mehta 20:17  

They can send me an email directly at DM, I research comm, or I research.com

 

Kenny Soto 20:23  

Thank you so much for your time today. And thank you to you the listener for listening to another episode of the people digital marketing with your host Kenny Soto. And as always, I hope you have a great week. 

 

But today I wanted to end this episode on a slightly different note. This is now episode 82. So we’re almost at episode 100. And I’m asking you the listeners to rate us on Apple podcasts. 

 

We only have nine reviews right now trying to grow those reviews up. So if you have anything, hopefully, kind to say about the podcast, leaving a review of five stars is ideal, but we’ll take anything you can get right now. So I appreciate that and I hope everyone has a great day. 

 

Bye bye.

 

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