HOOTOLOGY PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER STEFANIE FRANCIS (Christine Catalano Photography)»
Hootology revolutionizes impact measurement of supplier diversity programs.
Few things are truly revolutionary. But every once in a while, a revolutionary endeavor makes its appearance indelible. From then on, you can’t unsee them as anything but that. Meet Hootology, a “modernized market research and consumer insights” firm. Using tomorrow’s technology today, founder Stefanie Francis and her intriguingly zany crew are revolutionizing the “art and science of business decision-making,” while having a lot of fun. And supplier diversity may be where their efforts have a most profound impact.
“We never set out to measure supplier diversity,” muses Francis. “We became certified through the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce and WBENC, but we typically work with Fortune 500 companies. After talking to Raul at a conference, we wanted to use our tools to help him.”
She refers to Raul Suarez-Rodriguez, Merck Associate Director of Global Economic Inclusion & Supplier Diversity. Celebrating his program’s 35th anniversary, he immediately recognized the impact Hootology could have on supplier diversity. “It’s never about the spend, it’s about making the spend count,” he explains. “Stefanie’s company empowers us to truly understand the impact of programs like mine. Their Supplier Diversity Impact Indicator (SDII) gives us a constructive indication of how consumers perceive our brand and commitment to diversity and supplier diversity. Stefanie helps us understand how consumers value those efforts.”
Examining the supplier diversity space, Francis and her team discovered some glaring measurement oddities. Though every corporation wants results, they often judge success by effort—two very different things.
“We got one of three answers when we asked about measurement: 1) We track awards; 2) We track spend; and 3) We do economic impact studies. There’s nothing wrong with any of those, but they don’t measure impact on the brand and bottom line,” she shares. “Awards are given for a variety of reasons. Economic impact studies measure financial external impacts. And the spend is antithetical to the general philosophy of a company, which is to spend less. That’s when the light bulb went off in us. We wanted to arm supplier diversity professionals with a whole range of information to further their conversation internally, help them create a data-driven strategy, and most important, prove the business case for supplier diversity.”
Using the SDII—a Hootology-designed tool that measures the awareness and impact of a brand’s supplier diversity initiative on key purchase metrics—the team worked their magic. But with Merck and the pharmaceutical industry, things were a little different.
“Typically, Merck and other pharma manufacturers don’t put products before the consumer directly. But that’s why it was so forward thinking of Raul to include Merck, as there’s still so much information in the SDII to help his team,” she says.
Suarez-Rodriguez agrees. “The public perception of Merck reverberates in a lot of other areas, from politics to investment. Another thing Stefanie and Hootology did was a study for the Pharma Forum that was invaluable.”
Francis gives an example of the SDII’s depth. The graphic, “SDII Merck Image—Bridge Metrics,” illustrates that once people are aware of Merck’s initiatives, they are much more likely to perceive Merck as a company that values diversity.
Francis adds another key data point from their findings. “Only 4% of the United States is aware of supplier diversity. But every 1% increase in awareness means 2.5 million more people. We can isolate the impact for each brand and the approximate number of people who will think more favorably of each brand. The good news from the study is that fully 60% of the U.S. thinks it’s important that corporations value diversity.” Hootology also launched a product for new and smaller companies to provide them access to quality information for more effective, strategic decisions, particularly to attract investment.
In the Pharma Forum study Suarez-Rodriguez praised, Hootology examined the pharmaceutical industry using AIFG, a more customized, qualitative approach that boasts artificial intelligence. Broader and absolutely fascinating, Hootology conducted the study virtually (to quintuple the sample size) and utilized the artificial intelligence component to perform conjoint analysis on qualitative data.
According to Suarez-Rodriguez, that kind of synthesis of tools, thought, and approach sets Hootology apart. “They’re elevating the conversation and our profession. They’re enhancing the business case for diversity. With this information, decisions can be made differently. Knowing the data points and research allows us to perceive and think differently.”
That’s exactly what Francis is going for. “We believe so strongly in supplier diversity. We want to see it grow. If all corporations can justify their impact with data, that will create more internal buy-in, more C-suite support, and more money for supplier diversity budgets and organizations like WBENC, NMSDC, and NGLCC. Supplier diversity is only going to grow. It has a huge runway for massive, massive growth and we want to support that.”
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