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Xyte Inc.

An Interview with Linda McIsaac

Linda McIsaac of Xyte

About 10 years ago, I worked with Xyte on a project in Wisconsin. The company offered a number of information-centric services. I caught up with Linda McIssac, Ph.D., a few days ago. Xyte has developed a system which can be used to probe human behavior. The company can identify people’s innate strengths and talents, explain and predict their motivations and behaviors, and translate them into tangible business results.

At a time when information technology projects in many organizations are spinning their wheels, Xyte’s methodology can help get more traction from available human resources. Licensing a different search system is unlikely to solve a company’s information challenges. Technology, particularly in search and retrieval, is not the issue. The problem lies deeper, and procurement teams may need tools like Xyte’s system and method before licensing yet another information access solution with a hefty dose of sophisticated statistical methods.

Corporations and government agencies use Xyte’s tools to improve communication, build better teams and more effectively recruit and retain employees with quantified, qualified results. Customer-focused businesses can apply the tools to match compatible staff to customers and projects for a better return on investment.

I spoke to Dr. McIssac on February 13, 2012. The full text of my interview with her appears below.

What was the spark that ignited your work on the Xyte system and method?

A group of us were discussing how so much emphasis is put on technology for increasing productivity in business when really productivity is based on people.

I know you have pointed out that search and retrieval systems in organizations deeply dissatisfy those who use them, but search is one glaring example of a deeper problem.

So how can productivity be improved?

Based on our experiences, we reflected on the different behaviors of people, dug into the research, began to look for patterns, and designed an assessment tool. Immediately our instrument showed acceptable Reliability/Validity. We were able to prove that Xyting Insight™ is predictive and provides a perspective of our society.

Why is another customer assessment tool needed?

Good question. Current methodologies use demographics, past purchase history, and segmentation systems that do not identify the innate behaviors of the consumer. Our tool, Xyting Insight™, is based on the way a person thinks.

Would you explain that, please?

Sure. Our system reveals how people process information and make decisions. The method provides deeper consumer insights; for example, answering why people do what they do, suggesting how to tailor the marketing message to best reach the consumer, and finding individuals or concepts in the media.

Xyte provides a system science model and a structure that identifies the way people function intellectually by classifying their cognitive information-processing capabilities presented as a logical system of relationships among various human capabilities. In simple terms, Xyte’s system provides a structure based on a proven theory which is predictive of the way individuals think and process information and then act consistently. No other system is predictive.

How does your system and method reveal behaviors that might be characterized as social or Facebook centric?

Xyte surveyed each of what we call cognofiles or behavioral sets of the Xyting Insight™ system about usage of social media to determine who is most apt to use these computer applications.

Not all consumers are eager to use Facebook or use it consistently. According a recent Xyte study, 27 percent of the population has never logged in to Facebook and another 20 percent only log in once or more a month.

Right. The low usage by registered consumers is an issue social media companies dodge. Correct?

Yes, the data from our study suggest that some of the broad generalizations about social media, particularly as a replacement for a search system or face-to-face interaction are inaccurate.

That means that advertisers are missing 47 percent of the population. However, 38 percent do log in daily and 16 percent do log in several times a week.

Who are these consumers who most heavily use Facebook? What should an advertiser know about them to better engage them?

Not surprisingly, consumers who are most in tune with the written word are more likely to use Facebook. These consumers are the most frequent Internet users and use Facebook primarily to communicate with friends and connect with family. They like to keep their information up-to-date, meet new people, share photos, follow celebrities, share concerns, and solve people problems. Most importantly, they like to learn about and share experiences about new products. Advertisers should key in on this important segment because they are early adopters. They lead trends and influence others.

The population segment that most frequents Facebook has a number of characteristics; for example, showing great compassion for others, wanting to be emotionally connected with others, having a natural intuition about people and how to relate to them, adapting well to change, embracing technology such as the Internet, and enjoying gossip and messages delivered in story form and liking to read and write.

Several other characteristics surfaced as well. For instance, Facebook constituents are emotional, idealistic and romantic, yet can rationalize through situations. Many do not need concrete examples in order to comprehend new ideas.

What do the demographics of the Facebook tribe look like?

These zealous consumers form only about 18 percent of the population and marketing messages to them are very different from other segments that have the opposite preferences.

Another 32 percent of the population can also be attracted with emotion-laden ads that incorporate family and friends, but this segment does not like to read, relates only to messages that show physical movement of people and tangible things and incorporate simple slapstick comedy. Their media preference is television or radio. So, advertisers have less success in reaching this group easily through the Internet.

The remaining 59 percent of the population responds to marketing messages that are very different from those that use Facebook daily. These consumers do not regularly log into Facebook, if at all.

What are the behaviors of Gen X and Gen Y consumers that challenge marketers?

The Gen X and Gen Y designations are based on age differences. Xyte’s Xyting Insight™ tool is age-neutral, that is, it is based on how a person thinks and processes information which does not change over a lifetime. So, the results obtained with Xyting Insight™ show no difference by, or whether the individual a Gen X or Y. The same marketing message can be used no matter the person’s age. What can change for a specific generation over time is personal income, education levels, geographic location, and external environmental factors.

If we sample a professional sector—for example, attorneys—how does Xyte inform your client?

Great question.

Every job/profession demonstrates different types of clusters of cognofiles depending on the emphasis of the job. For example, some attorneys are litigators, while others specialize in contract law or the people-intensive field of family law. Each specialty has one or two cognofiles that excel in that area. After the type of cognofile is identified per specialty, Xyte has and can apply very detailed marketing preferences that are used to tailor the communications. The optimal type of communication to best appeal to the specific cognofile also will be indicated and provided to the marketer.

Today many marketers talk about rifle shots, but the reality is that marketers just dump messages into channels and hope that a prospect will respond. Google chatters about personalized ads, but as Google “relaxes” its criteria, the company is just pushing lower relevance ads to more and more people. What does your method offer a marketer who talks “rifle shots” but falls back on “broadcasting” messages to anyone who is receiving information?

Unlike basic segmentation systems (for example, by gender, age, income, location), Xyte’s system allows a marketer to optimize a campaign by aligning the independent steps of advertising under a common set of data. With Xyte’s 7-step Process, advertisers can identify their “profit customers” and understand what appeals to them, identify the right media mix/programs, tailor the ad message, test the advertisement, match the ad/commercial with the right program audience, establish a real return on investment, and adjust media mix, reach, and frequency to be more efficient and effective with ad dollars.

This is not mass marketing, but rather appealing to a specific set of consumers with known behaviors and likely responses. At the same time, other consumers may cross over their comfort zone threshold to receive the advertisement, but it will most likely not “stick” with these later consumers. When used optimally, Xyte’s system facilitates best use of advertiser dollars for an audience most likely to be receptive, offering greater chances of hitting the target with the advertisement – a win-win situation.

Marketers have very little information about their prospects and customers. If we use your Xyte method on a group of professionals, what are the benefits the marketer will accrue when you deliver your results?

We will help the marketer identify what we call “the profit consumer.”

What’s that mean?

A profit customer is one who generates the revenue and buzz which keep the company’s revenues flowing. We can also identify the profit customer’s media preferences. We can match and tailor the marketing message and where to place the ads for best results. Xyte’s Marketing Preferences include detailed information in five areas.

Our clients get a better understanding of the professionals in an organization—what motivates them and how they make decisions. Second, we can pinpoint communication preferences for intake of information, how it is processed, and retained in memory. We can illuminate buying habits and life style factors.

In addition, our data can test marketing campaign against the select target customers. And we can provide hard data to pin down the mercurial return on investment. MBAs chatter about ROI but routinely fail to deliver.

In terms of search, the ROI is “made up” numbers about how much time a person saves. The failure to make search payoff exacerbates the dissatisfaction with enterprise solutions. Let me ask: What should a client of yours know before commissioning a study?

Xyting Insight™ measures how the brain processes information and is based on the way a person thinks and the fact that behavior is predictive. We also know that an individual’s behavior is affected by environmental influences such as education, experience, personal hardships, or a catastrophe such as war or famine.

As you know, Xyte employs sophisticated statistical methods for determining what a profile is more apt to do, but individual choices based on environmental experiences may influence personal decision-making. Also failure of individuals to respond honestly to the Xyting Insi4ght™ assessment may affect the results of a consumer survey; however, that is why several hundred people per cognofile are used.

If the marketing message is too narrow and detailed for the target consumers, then the impact may not be as great as the advertiser had hoped. This will happen when the advertiser does not ask enough questions in an online survey.

Let’s assume we have analyzed a problematic market segment—for example, dentists or lawyers? What use can a marketer make of your system and method outputs?

For every occupation the profiles will cluster indicating those that excel in their profession/job. Marketers will better understand how to communicate with professionals and which media forms are favored once the marketer knows the clusters of profiles that represent a particular field, such as dentists.

Would you characterize some of the statistical methods you use to provide predictive guidance to your clients?

Let me highlight how our numerical recipes work in some specific business settings.

In personnel, the online Xyting Insight™ tool has been used for the past decade to leverage human capital by better matching an individual’s innate strengths with jobs. The personnel application uses advanced statistical regression techniques. A U.S. Army/Navy Recruiter study proved that our technology could identify the innate characteristics per cognofile which in turn were matched to specific job tasks to determine effectiveness. An employee who uses his/her innate strengths for the majority of the work day is more apt to be productive, successful, and retained. Each of Xyte’s cognofiles has been correlated with Federal Occupational Database of Jobs.

We have talked about marketing, but let me dig a little deeper. For all marketing surveys an analysis of variance (advanced statistical techniques) are used to determine the rank order of the cognofiles and the statistical significance because the Xyting Insight™ system is based on theory. This is unlike other segmentation systems that that use only descriptive statistics such as counts and percentages.

Companies like Digital Reasoning argue that its predictive analytics can surface hidden nuggets of information from large, unstructured data flows. Does your system and method have applicability to “big data” such as Twitter messages or Facebook postings?

Xyte’s methodology predicts an individual’s behavior rather than events, trends, or relationships between variables/information found on the Internet. For example, we know how often each of Xyte’s behavioral cognofiles interacts with Facebook, why, and how to tailor a marketing message for your product. A sample of Facebook members who have taken an assessment and received their profile could be included in other “big data” found on Facebook for identifying other interesting habits per profile or explaining the “why” of the behavior.

Can you characterize the time required for a research project based on your system and method?

Most of our work takes about four to six weeks. But the client’s requirements can affect the time window, of course. As you know, we work through a rigorous method which moves from project approval, to the data collection, to data analysis, and then the report. We include pre-testing to verify that we have planted our feet on stable methodological and conceptual ground.

When we met, I was impressed with your system and method. How many people understand the importance of Ready, Aim, Fire, not Fire, ready, Aim?

Not as many as I would like.

That matches my experience. We use a similar methodology for our search and content related work. How should a reader get more information about your firm and its services?

Your readers should visit our Web site at or call us at 608 327-1000. We are in the Central time zone.

ArnoldIT Comment

Many organizations jump to conclusions about employee preferences or a particular market’s perceptions. Xyte is one of the handful of companies which have a systematic, statistically sound approach to understanding issues related to humans. If you want to bring hard data to your next search and content processing project or better align your online messaging to a specific constituency, I recommend you take a close look at Xyte.

Stephen E. Arnold, February 16, 2012

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