Intelligent research contributes to the most powerful force in business, decision-making. Some take a different view, that ideas are the key drivers of commercial success. But, thanks to digital phenomena such as crowd-sourcing, we are awash with ideas and, as a result, overwhelmed by choice. No, it is informed, timely decisions that make the world go around.

For some research agencies, however, there is a more pressing imperative than facilitating high quality decisions, striking at the heart of their own businesses. Contemplating another year of chasing short-term projects, of endlessly pitching, of planning on hope, the management teams can often be observed looking over the fence and exclaiming ‘we wannabe management consultants’.


Smart research agency MDs will never expect the level of retained business enjoyed, for example, by advertising agencies.  But they would certainly crave more than your average research company and positively envy the ‘strategic’, ‘consultative’ model practised so successfully by the best management consultants. This kind of engagement is associated with more continuous relationships, fewer gaps between and less reliance upon ad hoc projects and greater visibility on workload and revenue. Unsurprisingly, it’s what research agencies want.

So how can this be achieved?

It starts with the I word, Investment. In my conversations with many clients who award marketing services projects (and, let’s be clear, they like the control and flexibility of projects), there is increasing frustration with the propensity for some insight agencies to allow an ad hoc workflow to dictate an ad hoc relationship.

Specifically, the concern is that the agency loses touch and currency between projects and then requires more detailed, time-consuming briefing in order to tackle the next project. However good the agency the consequences of this, with ever more competitive rosters, can be severe – more infrequent projects, smaller budgets when they do come and, ultimately, the phone stops ringing.

To break or better still prevent this downward spiral, the ideal approach does involve cost but, framed as a business development expense, this will most likely return as new income. The two key elements, in which management consultants are often well versed, are firstly, understanding your clients (both personally and professionally) and secondly, adopting relationship behaviour.

Neither is as easy to execute as they sound. And engaging the help of expert third parties, certainly to enable accurate and up to date client understanding, can be enormously beneficial. In essence it’s about keeping a pilot light going in the relationship, regardless of work flow, so that you are on permanent standby, always able to participate and add value.

Behave like a constant, trusted consultant and your clients might treat you like one. You will no longer be a wannabe.