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To Get the Business – Get “Their” Business

Recently, we were asked by a research supplier to define "getting the business". What do clients mean by this and how should research companies act to show that they really do "get it"? Well, here are a few thoughts.

By Simon Chadwick, Managing Partner – Cambiar

One of the strongest and most frequent complaints we hear from market research clients is that suppliers “don’t get their business” – i.e. they don’t display a fundamental understanding of the client’s category, needs, competitive context or even internal processes and decision making. I often hear this in relation to new business pitches, where research companies come in ill-prepared to discuss their wares in the context of the client’s business and its needs. It’s also one of the top reasons that clients give for being less than satisfied with their current suppliers.

Recently, we were asked by a research supplier to define “getting the business”. What do clients mean by this and how should research companies act to show that they really do “get it”? Well, here are a few thoughts.

First of all, “getting the business” is a mindset. You are curious about the client; you have an insatiable desire to understand everything about them. You are able to put yourself in their shoes, to empathize with them. From that mindset comes meticulous preparation, whether what you are preparing is a pitch, a proposal or a report. What data can you find, from as wide a set of sources as possible, that will help you understand the client better? What previous research in their category is there that can help paint a picture of their competitive context? What has been published about them in the business and trade press? What do you know about their products? What can you find out about their financial health and their strategy? (A good tip here is to find podcasts or recordings of recent investor and analyst calls they have held).

Given this mindset, here are five things that demonstrate that you really do “get” the business:

1. You demonstrate an understanding of key financial metrics (P&L’s, balance sheets, ROI, etc.)

2. You show an understanding of marketing and have an appreciation for what marketers do and the situations they face

3. You demonstrate deep knowledge of the client company:

  • its process (for example, in new product development or strategic planning)
  • its culture (how do decisions get made? how open are they to innovative thinking and approaches?)
  • you know who the key stakeholders are, their roles and their needs
  • you understand and can speak the company jargon.

4. You show real understanding and learning of the brand and its category

  • you know the brand’s positioning
  • you are aware of the history and trends impacting the brand and the category
  • you understand, and keep up with, the competitive landscape
  • you are abreast of the key issues and opportunities
  • you know what the knowledge base of the MR department is concerning the brand and the category — or, if you don’t, you make it your   business to do so.

5. Finally, you are aware of what role MR plays in the organization

  • does it have a strong objective voice?
  • to whom does it report?
  • is it viewed as a strategic partner or a tactical necessity?
  • what is the relationship between your client and their client — and what are their client’s primary needs?

Do and demonstrate all of this and you will show that yes, you get the business – and, who knows, you may get the business!  Good luck!

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