Look in the Mirror but Not at Your Reflection

I have been to many of the traditional market research conferences over the years. I’m talking about the events put on by IIR, MRA, CASRO and the like.

As anyone who has attended more than a few of this group of conferences knows, there is a cast of “usual suspects” that seems to be at every event.

There is also a familiar refrain at those conferences, particularly among those who are sponsoring the event and are seeking to develop business for their investment. I often hear that it’s hard to meet end clients, that there are a lot of vendors and not enough buyers,

I’ve been as guilty as anyone of this type of complaint in the past. But I’ve developed a new perspective on the question over the past year.

As Editor-in-Chief of Research Access, I have had the good fortune to attend some really interesting conferences which are off of the normal circuit, but which cover issues of vital importance to market research, including geolocation (the Where Conference), customer satisfaction (the Net Promoter Conference), inbound marketing (Inbound) and digital marketing (the Online Marketing Summit in Santa Clara, from which I write this post).

Would you like to know what those varied, timely, thought-provoking conferences have in common? As far as I can tell, very few market researchers attended any of them.  Another thing they have in common is they are chock full of people in charge of important elements of marketing for diverse companies.

If you are in charge of marketing or business development for a market research concern, I recommend you look in the mirror when it comes to your conference spend. And, of course, conference investment is a small piece of the entire marketing pie. What any market research business should strive for is multi-faceted engagement with the marketing community.

Your return on investment yields diminishing returns when you are at your fourth conference of the year serving essentially the same people.

Furthermore, it’s not just the straight business development case. There is also the intellectual capital perspective. If you do not introduce some new thinking into the mix, you will become stale and will not be offering clients anything differentiated.

You want to be a leading-edge solution provider in touch with the issues your clients are facing. But how can you be that if you are not engaged on the issues they care about?

Right now too many research companies are in fact looking in the mirror – not in the self-evaluative sense, but rather in the sense that they are interacting with people who are in many ways a reflection of themselves.

Don’t take the easy route. Don’t just hang out with people who are comfortable to you because they are similar to you. Make an investment in diversification and it will pay dividends both intellectually and financially.

About Dana Stanley

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

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