The Ever Changing Landscape of Market Research moves me to find a metaphor for what we are being asked to do on behalf of end clients
As I look at our industry and the constant changes that continue to take place I sometimes feel like we are today’s version of the bygone era of lumberjacks. In the older days the logging industry used log flumes and rivers to move dropped trees to lumber mills. In the spring, frozen lakes thawed and streams would emerge, untold numbers of large logs – effectively whole trees minus their limbs – would flow downstream – regularly bunching together and clogging the waterways. These “logjams” (Oh! So that’s the derivation of that word J) would require human intervention to break them up. I recall seeing historic films of these expert lumberjacks jumping from one floating and quite unstable log to another. (See this really cool short documentary film of Idaho loggers in 1926. Jumping starts around 1 min. 26 secs.) Armed with spiked poles they pushed and shoved the logs, breaking them apart to keep them moving toward the mill downstream. Their expertise is now honored with a competitive, international event for log rolling.
The metaphor here? Our industry finds itself continually re-balancing itself on a somewhat unstable business platform. While working diligently to provide top notch service we are constantly challenged to do great work faster and cheaper. The end clients are driving this downward pressure. It should be noted it is not necessarily the internal marketing professionals that are responsible. Many corporations have tightened their human resource budgets, cut their marketing staffs and significantly reduced market research budgets along with all other departmental funds. As posited in a prior blog from last year, I see market research becoming commoditized. Facilities are challenged to reduce costs to remain competitive, independent research providers and moderators are being asked to do more with less financial support and they are willing to do so. They make up their reduced profit margins by increased volume. Collectively we are all being challenged to be more and more price sensitive and competitive. Unless you are part of one of the mega research companies, and most of us are not, we are jumping from log to log, project to project, trying to keep our businesses afloat, avoiding logjams and delivering our “trees” to the mill.
Tied to the overall reduction in budgets, we are dealing with an increase in bottom feeder respondents. As clients keep driving down the budgets on their studies we are faced with the challenge of truly qualified participants rejecting the lower incentives figuring they are not worth the time. The result is many market research companies are being asked, no, forced to recruit bottom feeders. These are the folks who will take the leftovers and just want the money. “Show me the money!” Show them any money! What’s that make the recruiting companies? Specialists in bottom feeders? To be a specialist in something you have to really work hard at it. Are we the bottom feeders? Is this what we believe will provide end clients with the most reliable data and information?
As an industry I feel we are much like the allegory of the coldblooded frog in the pot that doesn’t realize his heat is being turned up until it’s too late for him to jump out. Poor frog ends up boiled alive.
How are we to not just survive, but actually thrive in such an ever-changing business environment? I believe we need to adjust to the reality of the marketplace. This means more than just lowering our fees. It means working smarter rather than harder and leveraging everything we can to maintain our market shares and margins. At INGATHER we realize technology can be on our side and are moving forward with a customized software application we’re really excited about. Beginning this week we are launching KnowAH™. This sophisticated, integrated software platform will improve our operational inefficiencies, enhance the quality of respondents we recruit for client projects and allow them direct real-time access to their projects.
In short, we’ve figured out how to dance on logs, reduce bottom feeders and save frogs from boiling. For more information, please reach out to us. We look forward to hearing from you.