Carol Fitzgerald: Accelerating Business Growth through Research Powered by Innovation

Innovation and research agency Buzzback has been helping hundreds of brands worldwide better connect with consumers, break through marketing challenges, and grasp new opportunities for over 20 years. Pharmaceutical and financial services companies have innovated using Buzzback’s intuitive image-driven & language-rich approaches. The relentless pursuit of the ‘why’ pushed Buzzback to develop interactive techniques back in 2003, when most companies were still focused on panel and analytics. After 20 years Buzzback is still devoted to creating fun and engaging ways to interact with consumers, their aim in fact, is to harness the potential of emerging technologies to help companies get close to their customers and understanding what makes people who they are. Buzzback has successfully pioneered the use of technology in insight and innovation ever since.

Headquartered in New York, with offices in the UK, Buzzback has won numerous industry and technology awards, including being listed as one of Crain’s 100 Best Places to Work in New York City three years in a row. Buzzback is woman-founded and owned.

An Innovative Leader

As founder and CEO of Buzzback, Carol Fitzgerald is an experienced senior executive with proven success in the management of both established and start-up companies. Passionate about innovation, Carol noticed the potential of using what was then new technology to do consumer research back in 2000 and has driven the use of technology in insights ever since. The spirit of the company supports flexibility – both for women and in general, for families balancing work/life challenges. She is a recipient of the Enterprising Women of the Year and International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Foundation Awards, both of which highlight her strong dedication to helping those in her community and female business owners through education, access, and mentorship. Besides, about half of Buzzback employees are women, many of whom have been with the company for 10+ years.

Adding Value to Business with Credibility

The biggest challenge Carol faced when she started her journey was balancing her career and family life: having twins, building a career, and ultimately founding a business. Carol shares that in the beginning, there was a lot of scepticism about using the internet for consumer research at a time when the World Wide Web was just getting adopted. Most clients did not have internet access at work. They were nervous about doing research online, often asking, “how representative is the internet?”

Buzzback spent the first few years proving credibility, highlighting how using the internet can be an effective way to get close to and understand people. Carol expresses that it was also important to create a company culture with flexibility, where people could create value for the business by being supported and included. She had no idea how the concept would take off – but it did and has become a hallmark of Buzzback culture.

Overcoming Challenges with Flexibility and Agility

Looking back, Carol said that the company was ahead of time, and it took longer to establish credibility and successfully adopt techniques than she had realised. The company had to sit side by side with research giants to tackle client issues in an acceptable way. The company has always been flexible and agile, embracing technology and the web; however, clients have only really started adopting in the last 3-4 years and now even more with our obsession with mobile and technology through the pandemic. Today, the entire team works from home and nearly all research is conducted virtually. This will likely to continue in one way or another. But initially, it was a challenge.

Having a Clear Vision to Succeed

Carol opines that one can’t run a 26.2-mile marathon without training; hard work sets an example, and helps to build relationships both internally and externally. Of course, one needs to set clear goals, have a vision, and communicate effectively. She believes that behaviour best demonstrates leadership – working with her colleagues is the best way to lead. In short, Passion drives success.

Being Prepared for the Future

Carol shares that after 20 years, it’s easy to look backwards, not so easy to look forward. It’s a continuous journey with an even bumpier road now. However, one thing Carol knows is Buzzback’s vision hasn’t changed: to create a fun and intuitive way to engage consumers, to understand them as people first – who they are, how they live and what motivates them. That’s inherent in the company’s award-winning techniques, industry-recognized culture, and core to all of its work.

Following Agility to Accelerate Business

Being agile is the mantra of Buzzback – it’s cost of entry today. The company has seen this become the way to innovate with its clients by applying test and learn. It means being able to embrace failure. Carol says the role of a leader has changed. Rather than being a distant figurehead, a leader also needs to be agile, to learn and grow with the business. Right now, the most nimble are surviving best.

Accelerating Innovations with Teamwork

Buzzback is well poised to become a global leader in insights innovation. It has credibility, great client relationships, and an amazing team. In fact, a faster acceleration of change is the only thing Carol can truly predict. The company will try to make the next 20 years even more successful than the first.

Achieving Goals through Working Hard 

Carol advises emerging leaders to not limit their expectations by worrying about what others think of them. “Set your goals and work hard to achieve them. Always do the very best you can. Stick with it!”