As I read today’s story about Harris Interactive‘s continued operating losses, I asked myself “what would I do if I were in their shoes.” Or any research vendor’s shoes, for that matter. I don’t envy them, nor would I look forward to the many changes in strategy inevitably required to return Harris to profitability.
But change they must…change, we all must.
Here’s where to start:
- Get out of the survey business. Your clients have less expensive options at their disposal (Zoomerang, SurveyGizmo, SurveyMonkey anyone?). You have been disintermediated. Get over it, move on.
- Find a
differentbetter way besides surveys to collect data. if I want to survey the market, I will contact my customers and do it myself. Or I will buy panelists from somewhere and do it myself. The only value you add as an outside vendor in this process is project management, which is not worth the profit margin you need to stay afloat.
- Get out of the syndicated report business. I love reading a report as much as the next person, but I can’t remember the last time that I (or any of my internal clients) actually used something from a syndicated report in a decision. it’s like trying to make a meal out of cotton candy…tastes good, looks pretty, but doesn’t offer any nutrition.
- Exception #1: proprietary syndicated data. If you happen to be the owner of a highly valued stream of data that already supports decision-making (e.g., point-of-sale data), well, cookies for you. But keep this in mind: every year, your clients look for a less expensive way to obtain the same information, or better information. So keep your foot on the innovation pedal.
- Exception #2: industry analysts. There are certainly niches where a name-brand analyst’s opinion carries weight, and their prognosticating has perceived value. No reason to walk away from this, but keep in mind that it’s a relationship- and reputation-driven business model.
- Become a data integration super-ninja. Everyone has lots of customer data now. Not everyone is adept with that data, however, and we all believe there to be value hiding at the intersection of customer data and research data. If you’re talking to customers and not connecting their words to their behaviors you are missing something critical.
- Sell impact, not methodology. Your business clients don’t care which methodology is more statistically relevant or has less bias. Only trained researchers care. Businesses care about maximum impact.
- Build or buy technology-based scalability. The SurveyMonkeys of the world succeeded because their businesses scale an order of magnitude larger than the workforce constraints of a consultancy. You need at least one tech tool in your toolbox.
- Recruit technologists. Change the composition of your workforce. You need more than just data analysts, statisticians, and account managers to be successful. You need a cohesive engineering team that knows how to build things.
- Embrace multimodal interaction. If you’re not from the boomer generation, you are a multimodal consumer. You tweet, text, update, talk, play. You do all of these things on your phone, desktop PC, laptop, tablet, game console. You can’t tell the whole story without listening across multiple channels.
This advice is worth what you just paid for it, of course, but I don’t think it’s unrealistic. As your customer, I would like very much for you to stay in business and to offer the value proposition described above.