This is the fourth of five posts in which we are interviewing noted business owners and leaders from across the Market Research industry to explore how top firms look at and utilize marketing & sales for their businesses.
Anne, tell us a little about your firm.
“We are a data-driven market strategy firm that pairs strong quantitative and qualitative research with advanced analytics. As an AMA Gold Top 50 company with over 70 employees, we’re large enough to tackle the most complex business challenges and small enough to be agile. From the beginning 31 years ago, we believed in integrating information, the value of multiple sources, and the need to focus on decisions to be made. While we remain true to our mission, we also know the world has changed a lot in three decades. New technologies and social forces like big data, mobile, and growing customer-centricity have introduced incredible challenges and opportunities. That’s why we have integrated comprehensive strategic consulting to our offerings—to help executives navigate these changes, frame business decisions, and tell compelling data-driven stories.”
I’ve been saying for years that Market Research is an industry that does not embrace marketing & sales. Do you agree or disagree… and why?
“Gracious! That is correct. For the most part, market research firms are smaller consultancies without sufficient resources to support a real marketing initiative. We built our marketing program to give an outlet, really a “voice” to our talented employees, and it lets us introduce ourselves to a greater audience in a human way—as partners—not as vendors. Sales, on the other hand, tends to be either relationship generated or prescribed by an (think purchasing department) RFP process, or a combination. Unless one is buying a “product”, clients prefer not to buy from a salesperson. Chemistry, trust, and partnership can be assessed during the sales process along with issues relating to market research itself. Clients want to work with the people that “sold” them the project. But remember, our client-side people only have so much sales bandwidth when they also work on client projects. This limits their sales time and provides a growth dilemma. Notably, more market research firms are using processes and metrics to enhance the sales effectiveness of their client-facing people. As an industry, many of us were late to recognize this need; we are there now.”
Anne, your firm is recognized as one that does a good job with marketing & sales. Give us an overview of the kinds of marketing & sales things that you do?
“Thank you. This is nice to hear. Our message is pretty simple—we stress that all organizations have market problems that can be addressed if focused on in the right way. Through marketing, we seek to help our clients focus. Everyone at CMB is urged to write blogs. We conduct webinars. We speak at conferences and meetings. The goal is to introduce ourselves as people who understand companies’ problems and as people who have ideas about how to solve those problems. In terms of sales, we do the same thing. We want to work with clients that we believe we can support.”
Which marketing & sales activities have you found to be the most effective… and why?
“I believe market understanding and then subsequent strategy are key to all market decisions. To me, marketing is the all-encompassing umbrella that focuses on customers and prospects and their journey from awareness to advocacy. Marketing touches the consumer in all communication… be it advertising, PR or personal contact. Sales is the behavioral change element in that journey—the part that seeks to convert prospects to customers or to gain repeat customers. Too often, we silo these as two different functions.”
How is marketing getting done at your firm?
“Marketing is done by each and every member of our staff as they communicate with customers and prospects and as they deliver our services. We do have a three-person marketing team who focus on creating engaging and relevant content, creating dynamic deliverables, and making sure we’re telling the CMB story in a compelling way.”
How about sales?
“We have one dedicated salesperson who works across each of our teams. But, we actually have a seller-doer model in which Account Directors and Executives are the ones who propose the approach to a particular client problem and manage the engagement. They are engaged and available from design to completion. We believe that every one of our employees is essential to our sales effort because it is the passion and involvement that they have with clients that provides the trust that clients want when they assign a project.”
So many firms in our industry seem to use the same words when describing how they’re different. Does your firm have a true point of differentiation… and if so, how did you discover/establish it?
“This is a great question and a big problem. I periodically look at various competitors’ web pages, and you’re correct, many of the same words are used—“insights” and “decision-focused” are a couple of them. That’s no surprise—a decision focus is critical when you’re dealing with clients who have complex challenges, huge opportunities and too much information. Along with our consultative lens, we really are the partners our clients want to have—thoughtful, smart, leading-edge (in analytics as well as how we look at problems), and invested in our clients. It is the experience – not the words – that sets us apart.”
Thanks, Anne… we really appreciate the insights.