How Not to Get Market Research Clients

I’ve worked in many roles in market research, but never as an in-house market researcher in a corporation.  I’ve always felt bad for them in that I know they get a constant stream of suitors among would-be market research suppliers.  In particular, at conferences as it appears they’re being accosted left and right by hungry supply-side sales people.

This Tuesday, November 8th, Tiffany McNeil, Strategy & Insights Manager, Innovation at Del Monte Foods was interviewed by Ray Poynter of Vision Critical on Radio NewMR.  She spoke about a number of topics, including how to – and how not to – get on her radar.

Note:  this interview has been lightly edited.  You can listen to the original interview on the Radio NewMR archive page.

Ray Poynter: What would you define as innovation in market research?

Tiffany McNeil: I’d say that, for me, good innovation is one of two things. Besides a general willingness to be sensible and try new things, which is actually one of the great things about BrainJuicer, I know Tom (Ewing) is the other guest today – we work with BrainJuicer a lot – they have a lot of proprietary tools that are trademarked, and those tools are fantastic, but if you have a question that doesn’t fit with one of the tools that they already have in their toolchest as it were, they are more than happy to try and find a new solution for you. And I think that a lot of other companies do have these trademarked tools, and kind of no matter what you ask them, try to shoehorn whatever your question is into one of those boxes. So I think that’s one thing – just a general willingness to be flexible and try things. And the other is sort of a more traditional answer, which is, kind of a better way to answer questions, either faster, more efficient, or maybe even just more engaging, so that when I present back to my internal partners, it’s something that’s more compelling for them to listen to or to pay attention to.

Ray Poynter: OK, we’ve mentioned one of your suppliers, but in general, when you’re looking for suppliers, what are you looking for?

Tiffany McNeil: It’s hard to say. I think that the suppliers who earn – I can’t speak for my company or my team, but for myself. The suppliers that I’m excited to go back to over and over again are the ones that are just great to work with – the ones who, when you call them, there’s always someone really smart and engaged on the other side of the phone, who are really responsive, who do lots of follow-up work without sort of claiming “scope creep” the second you ask a question you didn’t know the first time. And there aren’t actually that many people who fit that mold, unfortunately. There’s a lot of little mistakes, there’s a lot of sort of people who are really engaged when you’re trying to win the work and they disappear once you get it. So we have probably as a group a pretty small list of suppliers who we feel are always consistently delivering excellent work, and good partnerships.

Ray Poynter: So you have a good list, a small list of people – now, please do not everybody contact Tiffany offering your services…

Tiffany McNeil: [laughter]

Ray Poynter: …otherwise we’ll get nobody wanting to appear on the radio show, from the client side – but, what are the good ways of people getting onto your radar? If somebody is truly innovative, how would you like to find out about them?

Tiffany McNeil: It’s a really interesting question. I was thinking about this a lot yesterday. And I think that – how about this? The way not to do it is to call me and leave me a message, or send me kind of cold emails. I get – you know, everybody gets – but I get tons of them every day. And, not only do I not have time for them, but I also have a lot of guilt about them. It’s just not making me feel good about myself. But I think that when we’re looking for a new methodology or we’re looking for a new supplier, typically the first thing I’ll do is ask around on my team. There is a lot of word-of-mouth – people who have worked in other companies, and may have answered a similar question somewhere else and so might have an idea.

For example, I’m working on a question right now, which isn’t something that I’ve done before – the methodology’s going to require some pretty smart analytics, it’s going to be kind of analytically tough. So in my head I go through the roster of companies that fit that mold. So, you know, who do I know that’s really smart about analytics, and if I come up short, the next thing is I kind of walk around and ask everybody on my team. If I fall short there, I’d say I probably look to thought leadership next. So, Vision Critical is a good example. They are a company that I didn’t really know anything about, and we don’t use them – we do have a relationship with them now, but the way they got on my radar is two things: they showed up at the conference that Lenny (Murphy) chaired last summer – the NewMR new methods conference – but before that, I had gotten a piece of mail that was a list of the top – it actually wasn’t from them – I think it was either from BrainJuicer or from Synovate – one of those two – were also on the top of the list, but Vision Critical I think was top – and it just stuck out as a company that we don’t know, that apparently people like working with. So, that’s an example of how a company kind of got on our radar – now, frankly, we haven’t done any work with them, but I had a conversation with them, and I kind of feel like I know what they do and what they’re good at. And if the right question came up we would reach out to them proactively.

Ray Poynter: Super – and I think probably the list you’re talking about was a thing called GRIT, which is a study that GreenBook run in conjunction with lots of other people, and it has got some interesting questions in there, “Who do you think is innovative?” and yes, BrainJuicer do very well and a number of other companies do very well, including some of the large ones, which I think was an interesting part of that. I’m going to change tack now, and Tiffany, thanks for that, and I hope you don’t receive even more emails especially now that you said that’s not the way to reach you.

Here is Tiffany’s biography:

Tiffany McNeil is a client-side research manager whose circuitous career path brought her most recently to a Strategy and Insights role in the CPG world. Before that, she spent time in New York and London, where she worked primarily in the television industry, including content and editorial research roles at UKTV and Channel Five in London. She is passionate, smart, and opinionated – um . . . and modest charming, but she wrote this herself, so take that how you will. She lives in San Francisco(ish) with her family and spends most her time making lists.

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About Dana Stanley

Dana is the Editor-in-Chief of Research Access.