Market Research – Time to Stop Pulling the Punches

Confirmit Team

Confirmit Team

Author Bio

Confirmit’s dedicated teams work to deliver world-leading customer experience, Voice of the Employee and Market Research solutions. 

Author Bio

There’s an old saying, ‘If you want something done properly ...’  You know the rest.

And that’s all well and good, but in the modern business world most companies don’t always have the capacity to physically do everything themselves. Outsourcing and agency involvement are normal. It’s a valid way of ramping support up and down when needed.

In the Market Research agency world you can go to nearly any conference and sooner or later hear someone talking about how the agencies would love to get closer to their clients. How agencies could be so much more effective, more impactful and add more value, if only their clients would let them.

Why can’t we be more like consultants?

Now let’s be clear – this isn’t everyone. There are many in the industry who are already there. So it’s not everyone. There are many agencies who are already fine with this sort of thing. And it’s certainly not the “qualies”, where intuitive interpretation is more obviously a part of the day-job. Also, there are some for whom this is not what they’re about – and that’s fine too. But for every company that is there, in the client’s boardroom, guiding and helping, there’s probably another one or two who want to be but can’t figure out how to get there.

Jump across the fence into the client world and the funny thing is you’ll hear a weird version of the same thing being said. More and more clients engage with agencies with a view to getting some clear advice and guidance. Why can’t agencies do more? I wish they were bolder and help me more.

So some agencies want to do more and the clients seem to agree, but why isn’t it happening? I think we’re fighting against a lot of history.

Now, I’ve been a researcher most of my professional life and I love the industry. But this also means I’ve had a few years to watch and learn where some could do better – myself included! I think there are still enough instances when some agencies pull their punches. When they seem to lose their nerve and not go as far as they could. As far as they should, in fact. Too often they’re perceived to be sitting on the fence, often having this conversation:

CLIENT - ‘What should we do?’

RESEARCH AGENCY - ‘Well, the numbers suggest we should be wary of segment A’s intentions.’

CLIENT - ‘Yes – do you think a promotional campaign might make them less likely to churn?’

RESEARCH AGENCY - ‘We didn’t ask that.’

CLIENT - ‘Yes – but what do you think?’

RESEARCH AGENCY - ‘Well – I wouldn’t recommend asking directly about churn as people often say one thing and then do something else.’

CLIENT - ‘Sorry – I meant do you think a campaign might help?’

RESEARCH AGENCY - ‘Oh – we don’t have any data on that.’

CLIENT - ‘Sure – but what do you think?’

RESEARCH AGENCY - ‘Well … erm …’

Do these researchers hold back based on concerns about statistical robustness or is it something else?

Research clients want a trusted advisor, many have been explicit about this. But in order to be trusted you have to advise – even when that means picking a side. Actually, especially when it means picking a side. This is difficult when things are far from clear. Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying anyone should be rash and act without good cause. But for those researchers who want to be in this space – advising and guiding - they must be willing to act. Or at least recommend an action to their clients. Otherwise they’re just pushing a commodity and we all know they’re better than that.

So if clients need to be a little more open to researchers – more importantly researchers need to be prepared to jump when asked. Otherwise, I foresee clients picking a side for themselves… If you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself.