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We all know the story of the cobbler's shoeless children and the related irony that sometimes those who we expect would most naturally benefit from a situation go without. As I think about our industry, I'm struck by some apparent contradictions with market research firms.


by Bill Guerin, Partner at Cambiar

Contradictions fascinate me, because if I’m able to hold the associated tension in my logically Newtonian left brain, some resolving flash of insight eventually emerges in my right brain.

We all know the story of the cobbler’s shoeless children and the related irony that sometimes those who we expect would most naturally benefit from a situation go without.  And as I think about our industry (an occupational hazard), I’m struck by some surprising ways in which clients of market research firms may be going without – and I’m also curious as to how they might feel about that.

Let me explain….

I’m currently at 30,000 feet (literally) returning to the US after conducting a 5-week series of consultative sales and account management workshops in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.  In reflecting on these recent experiences – as well as my 5 years sales consulting experience with Cambiar and work with 50+ market research firms and over 1,000 client-facing employees – I’m seriously wondering about a few apparent contradictions with market research firms:

1.   How can we routinely give exquisite advice to our clients on ways to uniquely position their brands in targeted markets, yet so many of us try to be all things to all people, struggle with defining our target markets and lack an original and compelling value proposition?

2.   What do our end clients think about us promoting to them the necessity of collecting, processing and acting on customer feedback, yet so few of us do the same with our clients?

3.   Why do we consult with our clients on optimizing their CRM platforms without doing much of the same in our business?

4.   When we know so well the economics of maintaining an existing customer versus attracting a new one in our client’s business, why do we oftentimes fall short in establishing and executing account strategies to keep and grow our clients?

5.   When we really understand the crucial importance of a strategic plan to lead and drive our client’s business – and help our clients put those plans in place – why do so few of us have similar plans to lead and drive our business?

6.   How can we be in the question-asking business, yet when we get in front of our clients and prospects we often miss opportunities to ask good, consultative questions that uncover their core needs?

7.   How can we guide an advertiser in creating a commercial that elicits a desired emotional and behavioral response, yet so often neglect to connect emotionally with our clients and prospects?

8.  When we create disciplined processes for our clients to take new products from initial concept to successful launch, why are so many of our own product development efforts fragmented and unsuccessful?

9.   When we regularly work with our clients to understand their drivers of performance and help them establish KPIs to monitor and manage their business, why do so few of us have a similar dashboard to run our own business?

These are just a few of the many contradictions I often see.  Please understand, my intent here isn’t to whine, bash, generalize or self-flagellate, but to provoke some creative thinking and dialogue around what might be possible if we consumed more of our own medicine – the advice “Physician, heal thyself” comes to mind here.

Or if we return to our friendly neighborhood cobbler, to have a thriving shoe business, perhaps we should first consider making delighted customers of our own children.

I suspect others have thoughts and perspectives to share – would love to hear them.

Contact me at [email protected]

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  1. All valid points, but I believe you’ve missed the biggest: research spends a large amount of its time trying to validate other activity (brand trackers, ad trackers, customer satisfaction etc.) but never bothers to validate its own. Of course, there’s a very good reason for this…

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