Arising and even resulting from the GFC, has been the rapid growth of dynamic small and medium sized research agencies. Most have innovative approaches and distinctive cultures, offering exciting workplaces to their staff who repay with high commitment. Yet this very success makes them prime M&A targets and many will, in the next few years, be bought out. Is this bad for their workforce, and how should these loyal employees react when acquisitions happen? A recent article from Asia-Pacific focused of the plight of researchers whose companies were sold on by management. In essence, the hapless researchers were portrayed as helpless victims whose utopian world was dissolved by forces of evil, represented by the faceless conglomerate. Read On..>
Last year there seemed to be such a plethora of posts (including some of ours) about the top trends in the market research industry that we thought it was time for a break.
But when Tom Anderson of Next Gen Market Research came up with the idea of a whole lot of NGMR bloggers simultaneously blogging on the top 10 issues the MR industry has to consider in coming years it seemed too much fun to miss. Here’s our views then — to be fair we’ve dropped out a few of the more totally obvious “top 10” and maybe elevated some we think are important but often overlooked — but we’ll be interested in hearing what you think (and do look up the others posts via Tom’s blog or on Twitter at hashtags: #NGMR #5Hot5Not).
Let’s start with our 5 “Not Hot”.
- Reining in HR. After years of imposing restrictive salary structures and job description demarcations along with their depiction of creative staff as being ‘high maintenance’, senior management finally abandons the tedious tenants of HR orthodoxy and starts treating imaginative and innovative researchers in the same way the top advertising agencies treat their best art directors and copywriters. In some cases, they even get a place at the top table again!
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A recent Research blog by my ex-boss, Nick Sparrow, founder of ICM, extolled the virtues of offering equity to agency staff. In fact, it was Nick who taught me in the early 80’s how to sell research based on its benefits not its features (which given my statistician’s focus at the time was a revelation!)
Nick expounded his vision of a business “run solely for all the people employed” where a company is best run, and gives the best service to clients, when the people feel a sense of ownership. It’s interesting to note that two of the UK’s ‘thought’ leading agencies (both of whom have won Agency of the Year) Brainjuicer and Truth appear both to have embarked on similar ownership structures.
Although, ICM was owned by 10 shareholders before its sale, Nick was interested to see research businesses go further and make all employees shareholders. Here the clients benefited as their interests were best served and reinforced by the servicing team who in turn profited from satisfied, returning, regular clients. Read On..>
In a recent article in Research World, Chris Forbes of Research Reporter highlighted that the traditional economic success for mid-to-large sized research agencies relied on a combination of research expertise and technological infrastructure. As data is collected and assembled faster (both formally and informally) the weight is shifting more and more to the expertise part of that equation. Thus, the agency side of MR is going to be more and more dependent on research experience and “thinking ability” to create unique value for their clients
In fact, more and more the main (and some would say only) resource the agency researcher has to sell is their time. So, when it comes down to it, the quality of how that time is applied and the creativity to which it is put are ‘de facto’ the value to the client. Future economic strength will rely almost solely on how well the time ‘resource’ is both defined and managed. Read On..>
Lately, there’s been a lot of back and forth in the research blogs on the topic of ISO standards being introduced to the US. This has stoked the long-running debate on competency and certification in our industry, ostensibly to ensure that those using research are assured of a certain quality of service. It also leans to a yearning amongst researchers where we’d like our craft seen as a ‘proper’ profession taking its place with the lawyers, architects, accountants, and their ilk.
After all, no-one in their right mind would engage a professional who was not qualified under their particular society’s standards and requirements, irrespective of the fact that unqualified doctors, lawyers, and others are legally not allowed to practice anyway. Read On..>
Recently, several articles and papers have been published bemoaning the dearth of talent in the research industry relative to its size and diversity. They focus on two key areas – the lack of basic ‘craft’ skills and the inability to deliver clear and concise insights in the client’s language. One of the root causes has been put down to the increasing homogenisation resulting from the concentration of the industry into fewer commercially driven mega-agencies, where increasingly more of the leadership (unlike in other fields) has a background from outside the profession itself.
As MR has become more business-like in the last 25 years, many would say that the average level of talent or product quality has not changed, which is at odds with the generally improved margins and overall ROI. Read On..>
A few years ago it seemed that the big advertising and media groups were on-track to dominate the Market Research industry – Aegis with Synovate, and WPP with, well, almost anything they could get their hands on.
Recently private equity has also developed a strong interest in information companies, currently with ORC and perhaps most notably with the buy-out of Nielsen. We’ll surely see more from private equity investors in the next decade, but I’m guessing that we’ll see some other interesting trends in the control of marketing research.
One will probably involve the growth and expansion of Asian market research companies. But I’d like to address a more dramatic scenario: the likelihood that those who currently serve and partner with research agencies may come to dominate, or even own them.