Be careful of your “marketing” – it could bite you in your posterior
June 12, 2017
Anyone in charge of marketing a firm in the vast and highly fragmented market research supply chain knows that what used to be called “marketing” does not work very well any more (if it indeed ever did). Placing an ad, whether online or offline, is a crap shoot – will it stand out? If it does, will the desired message get through? For how long? The answers to these questions today is probably not, probably not and who knows?
Yet it seems that no-one is quite sure what “new marketing” looks like in the MR world. And even those who seem confident that they have the answer are probably wrong. Just how do you get your message out there in the cacophony of competing claims? And how do you know that it is reaching the right people (your prospective clients) and how it is being received?
What is known – and has been for decades – is that most MR supply firms are truly awful at marketing themselves. Let’s just take as an example the old world of advertising in a magazine. Most of the MR publications that have survived are very high quality in both content and production values. Just look at the MRS’ IMPACT quarterly or ESOMAR’s Research World. If you are going to advertise in one of these magazines, don’t you think it would behoove you to match that quality? And yet very few ads do, leaving the advertisers frankly looking rather amateur. Is that the impression you want to convey?
In the online space, some companies and individuals perform much better than others. (I suspect Cambiar rests somewhere in the middle, although that may be optimistic). But the main question here is, what do you measure and what does it mean? For example, I am very pleased that this blog is read by over 2,000 people a week. I suspect that they are broadly the right people, but what I am not sure of is whether they like it, don’t like it, endorse it or reject it. Sure, I’ll get “likes” and retweets but these are unipolar measurements. I guess a proxy measurement of “success” here is whether I get to hold on to my readers or even increase them in number.
Recently, Greenbook published a list of the most influential people in research, based on their presence on Twitter. Granted, this is one measure of influence but is it the right one? Twitter is one channel. What others could we measure – number of articles? Number of conference speaking gigs? Followers on LinkedIn? Or should we be measuring “influence” by something else entirely? As an example, my old friend and colleague, Stafford Crossman, just died. I am pretty sure that 99.5% of those reading this won’t have a clue as to who he was. But he was probably one of the five most influential people ever in new product development research. While he gave numerous conference speeches on the matter, he was also extremely humble and self-effacing. The idea of marketing himself would have been anathema to him.
My point is that we, as researchers, are no better at working out how to market in the digital era than anybody else is. We don’t necessarily know what works, we’re not sure how to measure success and, when we do, we usually measure in a narrow, not necessarily representative band.
Perhaps it is time to go back to basics. Time to ask the five fundamental questions of marketing: 1) Who do I need to reach? 2) Where can I find them? 3) How do I reach them? 4)What do I want them to hear? 5) How do I make them believe?
Keeping these firmly in mind, we can then design websites that accurately and succinctly reflect what we do, what benefits we bring and why we are different; choose and integrate channels that align with our strategy; and bring forth content that is refreshing, different and makes you want to go back for more.
MR marketing is not a total desert. There are more than a handful who really get it right. Brainjuicer (System 1), Insites Consulting, Gongos, Qualtrics and Join The Dots would get my vote. Who would get yours? Perhaps we should ask GRIT to find out!