Beyond The Sweet Talk: Time to Commit To Partnerships

February 24, 2010

Once market research agencies were simply “suppliers”: brought in when clients had a specific research need, often forgotten as soon as that need was fulfilled.

Yes, but will it last? (c) A.Gordon, 2008

But agencies (and even some clients) yearned for more than these fleeting and unsatisfying encounters. We wanted to encourage fidelity, and to demonstrate the virtues of long-term stable relationships. Nowadays we all talk “Partnerships”,  “Key Account” managers abound, and often elaborate client servicing structures have been developed. Yet, while we all understand the theoretical value of genuine partnerships, I’m not convinced that things have changed all that much or that many client-agency partnerships actually yield the value they should.

Here’s my take on three  big issues that  get often in the way:

Read On..>


The Talent Gap in Asia-Pac….The Noose Tightens.

February 18, 2010

It wasn’t just the rapid economic growth in Asia-Pacific’s research industry’s first 20 years which caused demand to outstrip the supply of trained researchers. Three other key elements interacted to keep downward pressure on the depth of expertise available, namely:-

  1. Rationalisation and polarisation due to successive waves of merger and acquisition, where 6-7 companies now cover half the industry’s revenue.
  2. The increasing complexity of the services from agencies and the skills needed to deliver them
  3. The trend within the client (researcher buyer) community over the past 15-20 years to move from local, to regional, to global decision-making in the marketing function.

    Plenty of Consumers, but where's the Market Researchers? (c) A.Gordon 2007.

The implications of these “big-picture” structural changes are not as obvious as the “demand/supply” issue, but they have had an equally dramatic effect, so it’s worth looking at each of these in turn:-

Nowadays, those who work for large research agencies rarely work with a director early in their career but more likely with a manager who will not be as experienced or expert. By contrast, many of the leading researchers in Europe learnt their skills when companies were smaller so received good training from directors directly. At the other end of the spectrum in Asia today, those working with the smaller, usually more specialist or ‘niche’ agencies, will work direct with a senior, even the proprietor. They get the higher level of mentoring but often over a spectrum too narrow on which to build a long term career. Read On..>

Can Big Research Companies Really Compete in Qualitative?

February 10, 2010

Many larger Market Research companies struggle with their Qualitative offerings. Yes, they offer strategic entry points to key decision-making moments in the marketing process and are high margin (at least when working properly). Yet Qualitative in its traditional form is hard to scale up, very “ad hoc” in its approach, dependent on a few talented individuals and difficult to integrate into the overall mix of larger Quantitative based business.

"Follow Me To The FGD Room!" Can bigger MR companies ever make a go of Quali?

This leaves senior managers struggling to find ways to extract sufficient value from their investment in the units, and often results in Qualis in bigger businesses feeling left out and under-appreciated. Consequently, there is a widespread belief among many Qualis, clients, and even some senior MR managers that Qualitative is better handled by boutiques. Yet times are changing, and there exists a window where larger companies could regain the initiative and change the way Qualitative is understood and utilised by clients. They’ll need to take some risks and will have to forcibly confront the mythic characterisation of Qualitative research as some sort of free-form performance art. The effort though, will be worthwhile. Read On..>

NEWS – Gordon & McCallum Link Up With Cambiar

February 9, 2010

A short message to our readers. We don’t usually push our business on this blog, but we think a lot of our colleagues and readers will be interested in this one. We’ve linked up with the leading US research business consultancy, CAMBIAR.  We think it’s good news for clients of both companies as it extends our ability to support clients around the globe and lets us share best practice processes and experience on research transformation, training, geographic expansion and so on.  Read the press release on our website: or contact myself or David if you’d like to know more.

For those anxiously (?) awaiting a more “normal” post from us, Alastair will be putting one up on “Big MR companies and Qualitative Research” within the next 24 hours (or so!).  The second in David’s series on talent recruitment and retention in Asia will come in after that.


Alastair & David.

Filling the Talent Gap – Breaking Asia’s Vicious Circle

February 1, 2010

While market research managers elsewhere are keeping a tight lid on hiring, in Asia-Pacific, Talent Management and Retention is still remains a headache. If research agencies do not tackle this issue head on, they are likely to miss out on the region’s huge potential.

Recently, in a call for papers, ESOMAR postulated that the key questions were: How can research professionals train junior researchers to a standard that meets the needs of client companies? Who needs to fill in the strategic thinking positions in market research? And how should candidates for these positions be recruited? Such questions are important, and to find the answers it helps to step back and consider why Asian MR has such huge talent issues and so understand that recruitment and retention problems are symptoms of wider challenges facing the MR industry in the region. In the next three posts, I’ll explain what has exacerbated the problem and how it needs to be addressed but to start it helps to understand the historical development of MR in the region, compared to the US and Western Europe. Read On..>