Featured

Information Security: Your Peace of Mind is Our Responsibility

Protecting the integrity of customer data and ensuring its reliability has always been in our DNA. In the constantly changing landscape of cyber threats, organizations need a robust set of processes and specialized individuals to ensure that new risks are monitored, and systems are adapted accordingly.

To that end, we are proud to announce that Marketing Systems Group recently achieved ISO 27001 certifications. ISO 27001 is an international standard that details requirements for establishing, maintaining, and updating an information security management system (ISMS).

This standard requires systematic examination of information security risks, design and implementation of controls and risk treatments, as well as adoption of a management process to continuously meet ongoing security needs.

How Do We Implement This?

As we see it, information security has two parts that must be executed in tandem:

  1. Implementing information protection
  2. Monitor the implementation and improve as new threats surface  

Implementing security controls around information is a lot like measures we take to physically secure our home and family.

You Would Do the Following:

  • You would look for a home in a nice neighborhood.
  • Keep an eye out and control your visitors and what they do in your home. In essence, who plays in the sandbox with our kids and what do they play?
  • You would install a home monitoring system so that you are made aware of any threats.
  • You would educate yourself and your kids on staying safe, communicating their activities, and set rules on what is allowed and what is not.
  •  You would create a “Plan B” that will allow you to find a safe way out in case of an emergency.

We follow a similar model when it comes to protecting information:

  • A nice neighborhood – We ensure that our data resides in data centers that have proper security controls in place.
  • Who plays in the sandbox – We ensure that all vendors and partners, in specific the ones who deal with our data have similar controls in place by conducting risk analysis with them on regular intervals. We also ensure that proper access controls are in place.
  • Monitoring – All our environments are monitored 24/7 and we have dedicated and trained staff in charge of security and threat monitoring.
  • Continuous education – We provide continuous training to all our staff members on information security and risks. We also conduct simulated threat assessments to understand preparedness by our staff members.
  • Plan B – We develop disaster and business continuity plans that account for how we would recover and communicate with stakeholders to get back on our feet to continue providing services to our customers.

4 Steps for Continuous Improvement (PDCA):

  1. Plan – As part of our operating procedure, we retrospect problems and collect useful information to evaluate security risk and root cause. We then define policies and procedures that can be used to address root causes of problems. Next, we develop methods to establish continuous improvements to information security management capabilities.
  2. Do – We implement the developed security policies and procedures based on best practices.
  3. Check – We monitor effectiveness of ISMS policies and controls and evaluate tangible outcomes as well as behavioral aspects associated with the ISM processes.
  4. Act – We continuously improve by means of documenting results, sharing knowledge, and using feedback loops to address future iterations of the PCDA model implementation of policies and controls.

Certified, Authorized, and Compliant

SOC 2 Type II Certification – Our cloud data centers are SOC 2 Type II certified for the trust principles of Security, Availability, and Confidentiality.

ISO 27001Certifications – Marketing Systems Group achieved ISO 27001 certifications. For more information about ISO 27001, check out the ISO website.

All certificates and reports can be provided upon request.

Featured

Key Advantages of Advanced Cellular Frame (ACF) Over Traditional RDD

In a previous blog we introduced you to one of Marketing Systems Group’s newer products, Advanced Cellular Frame (ACF). This time, we will discuss how the frame is compiled and the key advantages it brings you compared to traditional RDD by itself.

Let’s start with a few key facts. When we do a traditional RDD sample of a county or group of counties, the telephone numbers within that frame are defined using rate center geography. The RDD frame has zero bearing on your ability to place numbers geographically outside of a rate center geography. It’s just not built for that capability.

With ACF, we have a better ability to actually place numbers within the correct geography, because we have more known information about more of the numbers (approximately 45% of them).  

The Power of Split Frames

ACF can split an RDD frame into two pieces:

  • The listed / matched phone numbers we have information about for a particular geography
  • Everybody else, including unlisted / unmatched

The listed component we can put precisely within whatever target geography you’re doing, if it’s a ZIP Code, county or a CBSA.

The unlisted or unmatched numbers get pulled in using the old traditional rate center methodology, but we pull only the unlisted ones. All listed and matched numbers are excluded from this component.  

A County-level Example

To illustrate how this all works, check out our Coffee Quip videos, specifically episode #3 featuring Subject Matter Expert David Malarek. There you will see him explain a case involving Multnomah County Oregon, home to the city of Portland.

The ACF frame does a better job targeting an RDD sample within Multnomah county. Dave shows how you can take the listed and unlisted portions and create a split frame, in which you can sample the listed’s independent of the unlisted’s or unmatched.

The ACF RDD universe is about 1.5 million numbers. About one-third of them are listed. We know they are in Multnomah county. The balance of the records (993,000) are coming from the rate centers that best fit Multnomah county geography.

But remember, rate center geography does NOT conform to any census geography we are accustomed to. It doesn’t conform to counties or city boundaries. Rate center geography is really just based on where the telephone companies run their wire lines.

This means you will have some over coverage and some under coverage, because you could miss a spot within the county or flow into adjacent counties outside the county.

With a split frame, you get the two components of ACF RDD that best fit Multnomah county.

How We Address the Migration Problem with ACF

Now we hit the biggest advantage of ACF: how it addresses migration — people who have a cell phone in one part of the country then move to another part of the country but keep the old cell number tied to the old rate center geography.

For the “known” listed cellular telephone numbers, ACF allows us to identify people who have migrated from other parts of the country into Multnomah County, Oregon. Conversely, we can exclude from the frame everybody who moved out of Multnomah County.

If you had defined the frame by rate center and just did a traditional cellular RDD sample, a huge chunk of those listed numbers would actually be outside the county. And you would be excluding 27% of the numbers inside Multnomah county from your sample frame. Not good.

Simply put, ACF does a better job in terms of getting the people who really live in your target geography into the sample frame and leaving out the people who’ve left.  

What About Lower-level Geographies?

ACF is great for smaller geographies, especially city limits not easily defined by rate center, which tend to be fairly large. Rate centers might serve four or five dozen different communities; whereas with ACF (at least for the listed portion) you can pinpoint a town or city you want to sample and exclude the other towns around it.

You can see why we are so excited about Advanced Cellular Frame; it enriches the sample and empowers you to target smaller geographies with more precision.

For more details, check out Coffee Quip episode #3, with Subject Matter Expert David Malarek or click here.

Featured

Building on Tradition: How Advanced Cellular Frame Adds Diversity to RDD

Is it possible to take traditional RDD cellular telephone sampling and make it better? The answer is yes, thanks to one of our newer products, Advanced Cellular Frame (ACF). 

Advanced Cellular Frame is built upon the traditional RDD frame. It takes all possible telephone numbers in the RDD frame and adds something more. This makes for a much more versatile sampling tool, both for doing RDD and a targeted sample. 

How is ACF Compiled? 

Think of it as one database with two components inside. First, there’s the matched component. In the old days, this was known as “Listed.”  Second, there’s “everything else”: the unmatched, unlisted, unassigned telephone numbers.

We take the original RDD frame, which includes every single thousand block that was dedicated to cellular servers. Next, we identify all the telephone numbers from a set of half a billion or so. We advance the frame by attaching as much ancillary data to the numbers as we can: names, addresses, individual demographics, household demographics, and geography. 

Let’s say you’d like to do a targeted sample. For that, we would go into the database and fish out those telephone numbers matching the specific geographic and demographic criteria that you are targeting. 

If you want to do an RDD, we go in and include everything within the geography you are sampling. All numbers have an equal probability of selection both from the listed (matched) component and the unlisted component. 

KEEPING DATA FRESH

The database is updated quarterly.  It’s true that with any database on the marketplace, there’s always going to be aging. There will be lag time between the vendor compiled data and loading it into a production environment.  We compensate for the lag by sending selected telephone numbers out for a real-time name and an address append. 

Because people tend to move over time for one reason or another, this method ensures that we are appending the most current information available in terms of names and addresses, for the sample we provide. 

ADDRESSING THE MIGRATION PROBLEM

So, what happens when for example, a person in the listed portion (name and address) was geocoded, but that person actually moved? Many of these people will have carried their existing telephone number from one geography to the new one. Will Advanced Cellular Frame RDD move that number to the new frame? 

Yes, the person will be identified based off the new address. That’s the beauty of the ACF frame. It does an excellent job at addressing migration. You can include for your target geography (like a state) all phone numbers from all area codes across the country of people who it so turns out have actually moved into that geography. 

The converse is true as well. Anyone who has moved out of state will be excluded from the frame. 

This improves your coverage and the quality of data collection and cuts down on collection costs. 

HOW ACCURATE IS ACF?

Advanced Cellular Frame pulls on new technology to try to accurately link a telephone number to a name and address. It utilizes ID authentication, the technology used to validate transactions online. That information is used to help clean up and tighten up the ACF frame, which significantly boosts the matching accuracy.

WHAT ABOUT WORKING RATE?

You would expect a 75% to 80% overall working rate in ACF. That working rate jumps up to about 95% within the listed portion because there’s so much information known about those telephone numbers that they’re actually known to be working. The result is a much higher working rate than a traditional RDD frame.  

LEARN MORE

To learn more about ACF, click here and check out the first video episode of our YouTube series “Coffee Quip” an informal series of information talks with a panel of MSG experts. In this episode, Hillary McDonough, Raj Bhai, and Greg Pizzola chat about Advanced Cellular Frame with subject matter expert David Malarek, Senior Vice President of sampling and database services. 

Follow us on YouTube here for more Coffee Quip Episodes!

MSG data fusion techniques seed new growth opportunities for fresh-foods company

What does the word Fusion mean to you? You might identify that term with nuclear power, the holy grail of carbon-free energy creation. Or you might think of Jazz fusion, the blend of traditional jazz instrumentation with electronic rock instruments. In the market research industry, fusion refers to the powerful melding of data from various sources with analytical and segmentation intelligence to account for challenges and deficiencies in survey research. 

While there is no doubt that customer surveys will always play a key role in forming business strategies, the fact of the matter is, respondents are less likely to fill out long and complex questionnaires than they used to be. We live in a world of diminishing returns.

But this is only half the picture. When it comes to ancillary data from commercial sources, the harvest of quality data about consumers is a rich and bountiful yield. Companies now have the power to augment their internal customer data with supplemental external data. 

What kinds of data do we have in mind? Think about how data such as granular geodemographics, socioeconomic characteristics, attitudinal and behavioral indicators could augment existing surveys and records. This is where the fusion concept applies. By fusing some or all of these aspects, you are likely to get a fuller, more accurate picture of your customer base. 

MSG’s data scientists work with clients to pull data from various sources, apply nuanced analytical and segmentation techniques to it, then output a robust, empirical basis for business decision making. Fusing data, then applying advanced analytics, means businesses are less in the dark than before. By reaching beyond simple statistical analysis, better inferences and more nuanced decisions can be made. 

Client Case Study

To see how this works in the real world, read this case study about one of our clients is in the fresh-fruits and vegetables delivery business. They take fresh produce that isn’t pretty enough to go on the supermarket shelves, which might otherwise go to waste, and get it into the hands of customers. The problem was the company didn’t know enough about their current customer base to be able to formulate a plausible growth plan. They knew that new market opportunities were out there, but they didn’t know where to look for them, because data items for each customer were scant. They needed better answers to questions like 

  • What are the key characteristics of profitable customers across multiple markets?
  • What characteristics differentiate loyal customers from the rest?
  • Which geo-demographic segments include higher concentrations of loyal customers?
  • How can loyal customers be located in new markets?

To tackle these questions, MSG developed a fusion plan involving an array of techniques:

  • Map creation and plotting of all current customer locations
  • Individual and household demographic variables appended to each customer.
  • Classification and regression analytics used to zero-in on key predictors. 
  • A series of spatial analyses to identify geographic clusters in new markets similar to existing markets.

Check out the full case study to see how the company achieved a much better grasp of their good recurring customers, where they were clustered geographically, what they looked like demographically, and what areas in markets of interest had the highest likelihood of potential new customers (people with similar demographics as the known customers).

Fusion of internal and external data can help your company to fill in the knowledge gaps, make more accurate inferences, and seed growth opportunities for new products, services, and markets. 

The Advantages of the Advanced Cellular Frame

One of the strengths of MSG’s new Advanced Cellular Frame is its ability to address inward and outward migration of cellular telephone users.  This feature allows for the employment of Disproportionate Stratified Sampling (DSS) designs – or in other vernacular – split-frame designs. We can illustrate this using a typical scenario.  

Say you are targeting a metro area like Multnomah County, OR – home to the city of Portland.  There are, in essence, three ways you can define a cellular telephone sample frame targeting Multnomah County. 

One method is using a traditional EPSEM (equal probability of selection method) RDD design.  This is the method that has been around for well over 10 years.   We first identify the rate centers that best fit Multnomah County.  Every possible telephone number in the cellular thousand blocks (first 7 digits of a telephone number) that originate from the selected rate centers make up the sample frame.  This RDD frame design contains a mixture of working and non-working/unassigned telephone numbers. 

Multnomah County, OR 
RDD Frame (Traditional EPSEM) 2,057,000 100.0% 
Listed In-Area 348,497 16.9% 
Listed Out of Area 804,686 39.1% 
Unlisted/Unassigned 903,817 43.9% 

This method, however, has some serious drawbacks, but more importantly, it does not address migration – people who have moved in and out of Multnomah County and kept their cellular telephone number.   Look at the highlighted line in the table above.  39% of the RDD EPSEM frame is known to be outside of Multnomah County.  Additionally, the RDD EPSEM frame excludes anyone who has since moved into the county from other parts of the country.  The result of this behavior is high under coverage and high out-of-area.  It’s simply an inefficient and costly design. 

The Advanced Cellular Frame dramatically improves upon the shortcomings of the traditional RDD design.  We can still employ an EPSEM design by including both known and unknown cellular telephones.  But, this design addresses the migration issue.   Look at the highlighted row in the table below.  This design now includes cellular numbers for individuals who have since moved into Multnomah County from other parts of the state or country (inward migration).  It also excludes cellular numbers known to be outside Multnomah County (outward migration).  This all but erases the inefficiencies of dialing known out of area out of area numbers while at the same time improving in-area coverage.  This design is still an EPSEM methodology because it includes the unlisted/unassigned portion in order to provide full coverage of Multnomah County.  When sampling, every telephone number has an equal probability of selection.  

Multnomah County, OR 
ACF Frame (EPSEM) 1,449,089 100.0% 
Listed 545,272 37.6% 
In Area 348,497 24.0% 
Inward migration 196,775 13.6% 
Outward migration 0.0% 
Unlisted/Unassigned 903,817 62.4% 

Building on the improved EPSEM design noted above is the fact that we can now employ Disproportionate Stratified Sample designs (DSS) using the Advanced Cellular Frame.  We can separate the Listed and Unlisted/Unassigned components of a sample frame into individual strata.  This enables you to sample the more efficient listed stratum at a higher rate and under sample the less efficient unlisted/unassigned stratum at a lower rate.  Every number in the cellular sample frame still has a probability of selection but DSS will yield a more productive sample over a simple EPSEM design. 

Click Here to learn more about the Advanced Cellular Frame today!

Coffee Quip: an insightful new video series about survey research topics that matter

Have you ever noticed how many of the best workplace conversations tend to happen around the water cooler or the coffee lounge? When coworkers converse in the midst of informal “stop and chat” spaces, they are more candid than they would be in an official meeting. Often, they tell better stories, too. You can pick up a lot of useful knowledge from experts by hanging around such spaces.  

To emulate those kinds of conversations, we would like to introduce you to Coffee Quip, a new MSG series of short video chats between a panel of product and subject matter experts. 

Click Here to Watch Now

The field of survey research is an ever more complex and dynamic one, and it can be hard to get at the inside knowledge needed to accomplish what you want to do. At MSG, we want our customers to benefit from the experience and wisdom of industry-leading Subject Matter Experts. They are the Yoda, the Obi-Wan, the architects of our products and services. They know how survey research gets done, what works and what doesn’t, and why.   

Coffee Quip: Need to Know Info That’s Easy to Watch 

Sometimes the best things come in small packages, and too much of a good thing can get to be too much. Sure, you can gain quality industry knowledge is by attending a formal webinar, but that can be time consuming. In light of this reality, we have produced each Coffee Quip episode to run a mere 8 to 12 minutes, less time than it takes to down your first cup of morning java.  

The informal, light, unscripted discussions are hosted by Marketing and Communications team member Greg Pizzola. You will learn about critical and timely survey research topics and products, such as Advanced Cellular Frame, Hybrid Sampling, and our ARCS platform. You also get to see members of our Sales Development and Customer Success teams, who are on the front lines working with clients every day. They pose the kinds of questions to our experts that customers are asking them.   

Coffee Quip is about your needs and interests, and we encourage you to submit topics for future discussion. Send your questions and topic ideas to SusanEmery@m-s-g.com

Make sure to subscribe to the MSG YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of the upcoming episodes.  

Stepping Out: Pushing the reset button in the wake of Covid19

What a difference a year makes. In Summer 2020, many of us were in lockdown/quarantine mode, working from home, learning how to Zoom, hoarding toilet paper, trying to stay patient, hoping for vaccines to come. We dealt with the fear of getting sick, the isolation, and we grieved the loss of friends and loved ones. By any measure, it was a tough year, about as far from “normal” as you can get. 

The year 2021 feels distinctly different, doesn’t it? In the United States at the time of this writing, nearly half the population is fully vaccinated. Slowly, surely, we are beginning to feel more empowered. We can see the end of the pandemic, or at least it feels like we’ll be able to manage it. Schools and workplaces are opening up. The masks are coming off.  

It’s strange how the things we used to take for granted feel alien to us now. Things like going out to eat, visiting friends and family, entering a shopping mall, going to a house of worship, traveling. It’s like we have to relearn how to be normal. As a cartoon in the New Yorker said it so well, “I forget how to people.” It’s like we have to figure out how to start over again. How do we reboot our lives? 

We have learned a lot about ourselves in the past year, who we are, who we want to be, and what truly matters. Here’s a thought. Maybe, as we step gingerly back into the life stream, we will remember the daily practices of self-care that guided us through a very trying year. Maybe we won’t forget to appreciate the simple pleasures and the people that matter.  

As life begins to open up and we relearn how “to people,” remember to be patient with others and yourself. Here’s to a summer and a “new normal” that feels better, calmer, and more comfortable. We hope you enjoy everything the summer has to offer!  

6 POSITIVE ASPECTS OF WORKING FROM HOME

It is fair to say that we were all happy to see the year 2020 in the rear-view mirror. The new year brings the promise of Covid19 vaccine relief, and maybe (just maybe) a return to some normalcy. In the meantime, many of us remain working from home. To be honest, it sometimes feels like living under house arrest! At MSG, we miss being physically in the presence of our colleagues. We miss the water cooler conversations and casual interactions. We stay close over Teams, but it’s just not quite the same. Such isolation can be unnerving and wearying, but in the spirit of the new year, we asked our teammates to share some silver linings they have found inside the cloud. What are some benefits about working from home?

More time to spend with kids. For those of us with children, we can spend more precious time around them. The kids aren’t going to be little ones forever. OK, OK, maybe that sentiment held for the first month or two, before everyone started climbing the walls! But you get the idea. It’s good to be reminded how much our families matter.  

Being more productive without worrying about commute. Honestly, how many of us miss the drive to work? The past year has made us more aware of the time we spend moving from home to workplace. That is time better spent catching up on email and planning our day.  And think of all the money saved in gas and wear and tear on your automobile! One thing you might miss about the commute, however, is the transition time. Commuting gives you space between home and work life. How do we cope when that buffer collapses? On to our next point….

Being more strategic about time management. One of the major challenges of working from home is finding ways to juggle all the responsibilities of homelife on top of the regular workday responsibilities. We have become better planners.  It is important to set some boundaries and rituals to give your day a semblance of structure. We have also become better multitaskers, finding ways to be more flexible, like say, doing the laundry and feeding the pets in between meetings.

Closer bonds and time with the family. The pandemic has made us appreciate the time we have together. We’ve become closer and more appreciative of our loved ones.  As one of our salespeople puts it, “if it were not for COVID we would not spend this much time together, and because of the pandemic we have all learned to be flexible and to get creative with entertaining ourselves.” Cooking, crafting, doing puzzles, and decluttering—these kinds of activities can be shared with loved ones. They are opportunities to make memories that will be cherished in years to come.

More “outside time”. Because we’re not stuck in the car each morning and afternoon running to and from work, it’s a lot easier to step out for some fresh air, walk the dog, recommit to that morning exercise routine. Attendance at local parks and open space preserves is up. You’ll find plenty of people enjoying quality “back to nature” moments. All of this is good for the spirit.  

More time with our animals. Let’s talk pets. Better yet, let’s revel in the cameo appearances they make during virtual meetings. Who doesn’t love seeing this?! Pets make us smile. They reveal our better nature. They have been faithful companions through a very difficult time. Where would we be without them? They make the workday much more bearable.

As the months wear on with no clear end to the pandemic in sight, working from home is going to remain challenging. Hang in there and take time for self-care. Recognize how the slower pace allows us to appreciate the simple things in life.

Toni Morrison’s advice on work/life boundaries

In the past year, we have all been struggling to maintain some measure of work/life balance. Blame it on Covid19, if you like, but even in the good old so-called “normal times,” workers have had to juggle competing demands from work, family, friends, service, and that all too rare commodity known as “me time.”  

It being Black History Month, we would like to share some wisdom from one of our greatest African-American writers, the novelist and Nobel prize winner, Toni Morrison. Toni published a brief essay in The New Yorker magazine back in 2017 called “The Work You Do, The Person You Are.” The essay recalls an early job she had as a child in the 1940’s, cleaning the house of a presumably white, wealthier lady, for two dollars a day. Toni would give half her wages to her parents. “The pleasure of being necessary to my parents was profound,” she writes. Morrison took pride in the job, but also became frustrated as more duties were asked of her. When she complained about it to her family, Toni’s father gave her some sage advice: “Listen. You don’t live there. You live here. With your people. Go to work. Get your money. And come on home.” 

Toni derived four lessons from that quote, which for those of us trying to navigate the turbulent waters of work pressures and responsibilities and home, serve as helpful reminders of what really matters.  

 
1. Whatever the work is, do it well—not for the boss but for yourself. 
 
2. You make the job; it doesn’t make you. 
 
3. Your real life is with us, your family. 
 
4. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are. 

Morrison concludes, “…I have never considered the level of labor to be the measure of myself, and I have never placed the security of a job above the value of home.”  

To read the full essay, check out https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/06/05/the-work-you-do-the-person-you-are 

A Lesson in Black History from Stevie Wonder

To commemorate Black History Month, let’s do a retro music rewind to the year 1976 and the classic album by musical genius Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life. This Grammy award winner for album of the year is famous for the hits “Sir Duke” (a tribute to Duke Ellington), “Isn’t She Lovely,” and “I Wish.” When digging into the album’s deep cuts, you’ll find a song called “Black Man,” an 8-and-a-half-minute history lesson about the contributions made by black and brown people to American history. The timing seemed fitting, seeing as the album was released in the USA bicentennial year. 

In this funky exercise in consciousness raising, we learn about African-American figures, many of whom never got the attention they deserved in history class. People like the first man to die for the American flag (Crispus Attucks), the first heart surgeon (Dr. Daniel Hale Williams), the first clock maker in America and surveyor of the District of Columbia(Benjamin Banneker), the first man to set foot on the north pole (Matthew Henson), the founder of blood plasma and director of the Red Cross blood bank (Dr Charles Drew), the inventor of the first stop light and gas mask (Garrett Morgan), the founder of the city of Chicago (Jean Baptiste), and the woman who led slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad (Harriet Tubman).  

Essentially, “Black Man” presents Stevie’s vision of a multiracial democracy, as expressed in the chorus:  

We pledge allegiance 
All our lives 
To the magic colors 
Red, blue and white 
But we all must be given 
The liberty that we defend 
For with justice not for all men 
History will repeat again 
Its time we learned 
This world was made for all men 
 

Words to live and learn by!  

For a full listing of the celebrated historical figures mentioned in the song, check out this Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Man_(song) 

Youtube version of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEoE2UQXduA