For years I have had people in the marketing research industry tell me that the holy grail is direct clients with big corporates or government departments. It is where the money is. The way to get to them is to form an agency that services the direct client in a multitude of ways with bespoke research designs closely aligned to internal business needs and directions, not to mention politics. The goal of the agency is ultimately to generate cash and a lot of it. Eventually the agency will be sold for millions of dollars. That’s when you can put your feet up and say – I am now a successful market researcher.
But what if the money does not motivate you? What if, like me, you are passionate about the craft of research above and beyond getting rich?
The fact is that many of those professionals trying to create full-service insight-strategy and planning agencies live for the business. I have seen how it affects them. They quickly transform from passionate researchers into pragmatic networkers. Instead of market researchers, they are marketers. Research becomes less about insight and more about how many units can be sold with the best possible margin.
Not everyone is like this of course. What I am simply trying to say is that there is a cost for putting business and money first. The cost is that research and insight ends up coming a distant second to the zenith of direct client acquisition. To get these clients you do as Richard Branson suggests – say you can do anything (even if you can’t) and then work it out once you have landed the contract.
The irony is that what research and consulting agencies need most who service direct clients are people that can actually do the research and do it well. It is one thing to sell, but if the product is mediocre then reputations are damaged irreparably and the long-term dream of selling-up big simply becomes a fantasy pipe dream.
Enter Insight Tradies. We are fast becoming the backbone of the industry. We are research specialists and all-rounders that purely service agencies and independent consultants whose focus is the direct client. Why do we call ourselves ‘Tradies’? We do a few things really well, just like a tiler, or a plumber, a mason or a carpenter. Overtime, we have developed our own individual reputations in a particular field or set of techniques, be it qual, quant, ethno or online. Fundamentally, we put our love for the craft of research above and beyond empire building.
Once I realised I was an Insight Tradie everything fell into place. I suddenly knew who my real clients were. I realised my ultimate purpose as a researcher. My role is not about making me look good. My role is to hunt the insight, bring it to life and let others take the credit.
The honest truth is that I am more than happy for someone else to get the credit for the insight if it means that they win a new direct client contract or secure an established relationship. Simply, it means they will use me again in the future as a trusted and reliable subcontractor. Further, they will pay well for my services because their clients now expect a high standard of insight. In doing so, I am spared of something that I hate – the pressures and politics of direct client business relationships.
Finally, there is one other big benefit to being an Insight Tradie who forsakes direct client work for subcontractor jobs. It is being able to work across a plethora of categories and a diversity of projects. If you are like me and constantly seek new stimulation through insight then servicing agencies and independent consultants (not direct clients) is the way to go. In the process, you learn so much about so many things.
Intrinsically, I am driven by curiosity of human beings and a love of the craft of research. I am an Insight Tradie.
Nick Agafonoff – RealEthno