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It’s all from the heart.

I was doing a bit of industrial navel gazing the other day.  No, not risking a herniated disc by trying to peer into my own belly button but looking at various reports our Market Research industry has made on itself.  

Nestling among all those important measures of methodologies, spend, trends and so on, another common question theme emerges.  It seems, as researchers, we often like to ask ourselves and our clients what we each value in the other and what it is that we would like to see more of.  I found a particularly interesting version of this in the BRB report published by MrWeb and Circle Research: the report can be downloaded free here:

It’s interesting to me because it also strikes me that (based on my sample-of one experience) some of these responses are rather more honest than we often see.  Clients often say they want agencies who understand their businesses so they can produce better reports and insights, and agencies often say they want to know more about the client’s business so they can produce…yes, better reports and insights.  

In this report, however, it seems we have some truly candid clients: their top three values in agencies were:

-The extent to which they liked them as individuals

-The energy / effort they put into projects

-Overall ease of working with them (which is really an expression of the previous two values)

Agencies want client respect, appreciation and clients that are generally easy to work with.  

This looks, to me, like opposite sides of the same coin.  It also looks to me like the core values both clients and agencies hold dear are to do with the actuality of dealing with each other.  Or the experience.  Clients buy on emotion (how much they like the people and the perceived energy / effort they apply) and agencies value the emotional buzz (respect and appreciation) they get from dealing with the clients they prefer.  

So where are all the hard measures, such as data quality, price, timings, efficiency?  These are effectively subsumed into these core values: just as in every other walk of life, an agency that feels respected and valued will put that extra energy and effort into projects, and it will deliver on the hard measures simply because it’s an integral part of a mutually respectful and affectionate relationship.  

What clients and agencies want from each other also reflects the two sides of this coin:  clients want better reporting / storytelling in reporting styles that make it easy for them to understand and prioritise key messages for sharing with key stakeholders without the need to reformulate and digest for internal consumption.  Agencies – no surprise – want greater openness upfront so projects can be more effectively designed, and more knowledge of how their work is then reported and actioned into the client organisation.  The same thing really.

None of these are particularly “hard” or “objective” measures either.  I would argue these are all expected outcomes of effective application of the values previously espoused.  I found it quite refreshing really, in a world where we’re so often talking about the hard measures, that both clients and agencies in this survey were talking about the experience of dealing with each other as being so important.  Hard measures are nowhere to be seen.

We ought to know this: as Behavioural Economics becomes the more dominant paradigm within which market research sits, we should turn our teaching skills on ourselves.  We know our client has bought their car on largely emotional factors so why are we surprised when they buy research projects in the same way?  I have yet to be told I’ve lost a job because the client liked the other people more, or that I’ve won one because I’m a great guy to work with, but perhaps that day isn’t far off.

Tim Baker

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