Being relevant has been a big topic of discussion online and at research conferences over the past year. It seems that many researchers are worried about how their colleagues view their role as partners in the business.
Last week, MarketResearchCareers.com released results from their 2010 survey of Market Research Professionals and it contained a bit of a surprise. The results showed a rather stunning turn-around in research buyer opinion.
78% of respondents said that they viewed research suppliers as partners, up from 54% in 2009 and reversing a 4-year downward trend. While it remains to be seen whether this is a short-term blip resulting from the gutting of client-side research departments by lay-offs or a more permanent change, it is clear there is an immediate opportunity for researchers to step up and become valuable members of the team.
We can’t afford to let it slip away.
The feeling among researchers that their marketing colleagues lack respect for their opinions and regularly neglect to include them in decision-making has many roots. Some of them can simply be chalked up to cultural differences between “left-bran” researchers and “right-brain” marketers, but some, frankly, are our own fault.
Perhaps the most visible symptom of the disconnect between researchers and marketers is the ubiquity of the 300-slide PowerPoint data dump masquerading as a report. Researchers are genetically programmed to love data and tend to assume everyone else does, too. Unfortunately, marketers and executives don’t want data – they want answers.
Researchers end up being seen as data grunts who don’t “get it.” Not surprisingly, then, they don’t get a seat at the table to discuss implications and plans. This forces many researchers into a reactive role rather than a proactive one that would deliver much more value to their colleagues and to the organization overall.
The situation is more pronounced when we’re talking about external suppliers than internal research staff. Don’t get me wrong, there are research consultants out there doing very interesting things that are driving the entire industry forward. However, the majority of research companies, particularly those focused on field service, lean far too heavily on operational efficiency as their differentiator, resulting in an industry full of “me-too” positioning strategies.
You could summarize these companies’ marketing strategy simply as “we’ll do it a day faster, a dollar cheaper, and make one less mistake than the next guy.” The only thing accomplished by that approach is an ever accelerating race to the bottom on price. In that environment, it’s no wonder the marketers we work for don’t see much value in our contributions.
There are three fairly simple steps researchers can take today to improve the situation for both their personal brands and their company’s brand. Best of all, you can do them right now.
- Change your mindset from that of a scientist to that of a marketer
- Educate yourself about your (internal or external) customer’s business
- Raise your game when it comes to communicating results
Over the next three weeks, I’ll be exploring each of these in more detail. Stay tuned for ideas how you can successfully accomplish all of these things. Don’t miss it, subscribe to Random Sampling now.