Twelve years ago, this month, I started my career in the Market Research industry. And it didn’t take very long for me to come to the conclusion that “This is an industry that does not embrace marketing & sales.”
Over the years, I have repeated that statement to scores of people – in all kinds of companies covering all kinds of roles – and guess what? Not a single person has ever disagreed with me. It’s amazing to see in 2017 just how many firms…
- Have a website that hasn’t been updated in years
- Have virtually no social media presence
- Have not published any thought leadership
- Have no proactive sales effort
Sure, there are some exceptions – many panel and tech companies are pretty consistent with their marketing and most companies in those spaces have a sales team – but by and large, that statement rings true.
So, why is that? Why don’t we embrace marketing & sales? What are we afraid of?
I think the response to those questions fall into one of a four categories…
Lack of Knowledge
For years, firms in our industry grew by reputation, word-of-mouth and referrals. As long as you did good work, your sales pipeline stayed relatively full. But no more. In today’s fast-changing environment – when the competition includes new technology, big data, DIY, social media, reduced budgets, purchasing departments or companies who just don’t see the value in research – the more proactive everyone must become to achieve their revenue goals.
The trouble is, because so many firms had success in the past without any real marketing & sales in place, they simply never learned how to do it. Or, with the focus on operational excellence, there’s no one on staff with any real marketing or sales skills.
And even if those skills do exist, leadership often has no real understanding of how to manage those functions effectively.
It’s Not a Priority
The comment I hear most frequently is… “but Steve, I’m so busy I just don’t have the time for marketing.” To which I respond, “B.S.! You don’t have time because you have not made it a priority.” For example, if you picked up a new client… you’d find the time to get the work done, right? And when your project was over… you’d find the time to send out the final invoice, right?” And if Proctor & Gamble called and said they wanted to meet with you next Monday… you’d adjust your schedule, right?
Stop the excuses. If you’re serious about implementing some level of marketing & sales, you have to find the time to make it happen and make it a priority.
Operations Comes First
We are by nature, an operationally-focused industry. On any given day, everything revolves around our clients’ projects. And because 95% of this industry lives project-to-project, it is truly part of the MR culture. Unfortunately, that myopic focus leads to some skewed thinking, like:
- We don’t need marketing… our good work will bring clients back and attract new ones.
- Why does the sales rep get a commission? The Ops team that does all the work.
And while Operations is what makes the research happen… Operations, itself, is changing with things like DIY research, the litany of new and emerging technologies and even marketplace platforms like ZappiStore. Operations leadership needs to understand that “business as usual” just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Not Committed to Sales
The most common selling model across our industry is that of Seller-Doer, regardless of the size of the firm. In this model, the owner of the firm, a senior executive or a department head – in addition to their primary job roles – also takes on some business development (a.k.a. sales) responsibility.
This sounds great in theory, but here’s the problem: This seller-doer is trying to serve two masters… their ‘full-time job’ and ‘sales.’ And on any given day, when he or she has to make a choice of whether to do their real job or try to sell something – their real job (with which they’re much more comfortable) always wins. But that also means, by comparison, that selling becomes less important and less of a priority. Over time, this leads to these seller-doers focusing almost exclusively on their full-time role and ignoring their selling role.
Conclusion: Marketing & Sales are Not 4-Letter Words
Marketing & Sales are the not the bad guys here, it’s the mindset of our industry that’s the problem. And if you share that mindset, it has to change if you are to ensure the long-term success of your firm. Marketing & Sales must be looked at on the same level as Operations, Finance & Accounting and HR. Only then will marketing & sales get the level of effort, resources and priority necessary for success.