Back to basics: Winning new business as a research agency

There are some basic approaches you can take - regardless of the global ecosystem - to remain competitive and relevant and win new business.

It’s a strange time for market researchers. While the need for consumer insights is more critical than ever before, the uncertainty we are experiencing is affecting industry businesses in a myriad of ways. Many researchers are busier than ever with projects new and old, while some have seen even the most consistent clients make cuts to their research efforts. No matter the situation, it’s time to plan ahead with some anticipatory moves that can help your businesses prepare for the future and lay the foundation for growth. You can take some basic approaches - regardless of the global ecosystem - to remain competitive and relevant.

To start with, let’s go back to the basics when it comes to business development efforts.

  • Social presence: Take steps like making sure your LinkedIn profiles - for yourself, your leadership team, and your business - are active and up-to-date. Use keywords in your descriptions, and make sure to hashtag all your updates and posts. For example, the hashtag #marketresearch has nearly 350,000 followers on LinkedIn. What a great way to access this audience! Twitter should also be regularly used, as it is an active medium for the market research community. Popular hashtags include #mrx, #insights, #newmr and others. Be part of the conversation here. Make sure to interact with colleagues and ‘follow’ your company accounts on Twitter. Small things add up quickly over time.
  • Nurture existing relationships: For a large industry, we’re pretty intimately connected, and you’ve likely worked with some influential people. At the very least, you may have hung out with them at a conference (Remember the good old days?). It’s the perfect time to reconnect with some of your contacts. In addition, you probably have existing clients with whom you have solid relationships. Come up with creative ideas for expanding your projects with them by finding ways for them to get more from their existing data. Help them assess existing projects to determine their value and impact on the business - maybe there are places to expand and improve processes.
  • Understand your audience: Before you jump into “sales” mode, make sure you have the basics sorted. It would help if you placed yourself firmly in the shoes of your clients and potential clients. Put on your “curious” market research hat and help to clearly define the business issues that matter by asking yourself questions like What are their real challenges? Where are their daily pain points? Then, take it a step further and make sure you know how to articulate exactly how your solution helps them to overcome these challenges.
  • Dedicated time: You may find that you are more efficient working from home, whether it is due to lack of interruptions (e.g., you don’t have kids at home) or the time gained by your commute being reduced to a few steps down the hallway. If you are one of those who has a little bit of extra time on your hands, dedicate some time every day to business development. From cold calls and outreach to researching potential clients, even 30 minutes a day can help move you toward your goals. This may be a habit you continue even after returning to the office.
  • Share your expertise: Many industry associations, publications, and groups are striving to keep market researchers digitally informed and educated during the crisis. This provides opportunities for participation that may not have existed before. Seek virtual events in which you can participate, either as an engaged participant or a presenter. Find podcasts that speak to your target audiences and see what it might take to become a guest. Write articles and send them to editors of trade publications in your vertical markets. Put on your own webinar, fill your blog with content, and share information through regular email outreach. The right people might see this material, and it can help bolster your sales efforts.
  • Pat yourself on the back: Hey, it’s okay to take credit where credit is due in this situation. Won an award? Make sure to highlight it and why you, your solution, or your company were honored. If you have been published (see above), it can help you not only have a reason to reach out and share an article you penned, but also give you some added credibility. The same goes for direct client feedback or testimonials, case studies, new partnerships, and new features or product offerings. If your technology gives you a competitive advantage, mention it. For example, we purpose-built Harmoni for the market research industry. This is something that we highlight because, as researchers ourselves, we know that our platform is the best way for other market researchers to explore and use their data for decision making.

If you are looking for something more “market research specific” to pursue, we’ve seen agencies find success by publishing their own bespoke research. In fact, you can see just how many companies are taking this approach during COVID-19 by visiting one of the industry resource pages, such as this roundup from the Market Research Society and this site by ESOMAR. These types of studies can showcase each agency’s area of expertise, such as CPG research or consumer sentiment analysis while providing valuable insights for companies trying to navigate the crisis. Promoting the research and using it in pitches can help potential clients understand the value the relationship could bring to them.

It’s a good time to think about expanding your new business efforts over the coming weeks and months, especially if you’ve found that the cadence of your normal workday has shifted during the pandemic. More than ever, brands and businesses must understand a quickly changing market and audience. You can help! Take some steps to boost awareness among your potential clients, share your knowledge, take time to be part of the conversation, and you’re on your way to winning new business.  All the best!


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