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CASRO Transformation Series: Market Strategies – Transformation from the Outside In

Market Strategies International, founded in 1989, quickly developed a reputation for applying advanced analytics to assist marketing and business decisions – a reputation the firm maintains today.


By Jeff Resnick of Stakeholder Advisory Services

Wilkerson Headshot

Market Strategies International, founded in 1989, quickly developed a reputation for applying advanced analytics to assist marketing and business decisions – a reputation the firm maintains today.  This edition of Transform delves into the path chosen by George Wilkerson (President and COO) and his colleagues at Market Strategies International to keep the firm successfully moving forward in the changing world of market intelligence.

George readily admits the management team has acquired more than a few gray hairs during the transformational process.  The result, however, is a great deal of knowledge and insight useful to others experiencing the same external forces.  He shares his interconnected insights in this edition of Transform.

Play the role of the outsider looking in.  Solutions to business issues will arise by gaining a different perspective on an issue.  Often the insights will come from observing how those in other industries approach business issues similar to those your clients face.  Looking outside the market research industry to its clients’ industries and their practices led Market Strategies down the path of adopting techniques from the decision sciences field that begin the exploratory process with the analysis of behavioral data, not only surveys.  Supplementing these analyses with attitudinal surveys or using advanced qualitative techniques have proven to provide Market Strategies’ clients with greater insight more quickly.  The intelligent integration of these techniques not only answers the “what” but also the “why”.

Recognize macro-trends and take action.  There is no secret that our industry is anticipating an environment in which access to respondents becomes terrifyingly difficult.  Preparing for this day resulted not only in an urgency to incorporate behavioral data analysis techniques but also to develop alternative mechanisms that provide clients with access to respondents and the information required.  The acquisition of Cogent Research—a firm best known for its suite of syndicated wealth products—is one example. Now, Market Strategies’ Syndicated Division offers Cogent Reports™, a portfolio of traditional products as well as new portal-based research solutions that provide continuous data collection and online reporting. The acquisition addresses two trends – the increasing difficulty of access to respondents as well as client demand for direct digital access to information when they want it.

Acquire tomorrow’s skills today.  Other industries routinely identify and begin to invest in and build capabilities (people and otherwise) to address emerging needs.  This often requires investment ahead of revenue – something George indicates Market Strategies could have, in hindsight, addressed more aggressively to be able to fully meet the challenge of behavioral data analysis as it emerged.  If you can’t afford to make the appropriate investment on your own, find a partner. In some circumstances, “renting” the capability when needed will be a better alternative to owning it.

Honor the science of market research.  Market Strategies was built on the science of research.  That remains a core foundation element of the firm. In today’s environment, this can be translated in several ways.  It might be ensuring clients fully understand the tradeoffs of adopting new techniques.  It might be using data science techniques in the creation of analyzable data sets from disparate streams of information – very much helping to define and push the envelope of this emerging discipline.  Innovation without a scientific underpinning can be a house of cards.

Evolve – don’t revolt.  George very much sees business transformation as an evolutionary not revolutionary process.  He sees radical change as a risky endeavor.  From a pragmatic standpoint, George indicated that a large portion of their revenues today remain linked to what the firm has historically done – classic high-end market research with a focus on a limited number of industries.  Abandoning that work in the pursuit of something entirely new would be a high stakes endeavor.  Evolution – incremental but continuous change – not only protects the present but assures the future.  It is a discipline that yields results.

The application of these principles has resulted in exciting times at Market Strategies International and the firm conviction that innovation will continue to be front and center to their success.  While pursuing this path has not always been easy and implementation not perfect, successes have far outweighed failures.  The failure to take an “outside in” perspective would have substantially hurt Market Strategies’ growth and the future potential it holds today.   George said it perfectly – “it would have been scary”.  There has been one profound unanticipated result worth mentioning – excited clients.  George cites clients’ hunger for new ideas as enormous.  The Market Strategies team is helping to feed that appetite.



About Market Strategies International

Market Strategies International is a global market research firm with deep expertise in consumer/retail, energy, financial services, healthcare, technology and telecommunications. Offering custom research services and syndicated research products, Market Strategies provides insight from more than 75 countries, focused in the areas of brand, communications, CX, product development and segmentation. Since Market Strategies was founded in 1989, it has become one of the largest market research firms in the world, with offices in the US, Canada and China. Read Market Strategies’ blog at FreshMR, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


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