Examining the Causes of the Gulf in Research Client-Agency Relationships

When I was asked to write a blog on this hefty topic, I realised there was no way I was able to examine this topic on my own; so in the true fashion of an insight professional, I decided to bring in reinforcements, interviewing respondents from both side of the relationship in order to gain more insight into the main causes of the gulf in client-agency relationships.

With respondents from FlexMR and various brands, I asked seven key questions to help me write this article:

  • What comes to mind when you think of market research?
  • How much value you do think research-generated insights add to your business and decision-making processes?
  • What expectations do you have of market research and insights?
  • When you first start to seek out a research agency/client partnership, what do you look for specifically?
  • How do you like to communicate with research agencies/clients, and how much communication would you expect throughout the research process? Also, who would you expect to communicate with during the research process?
  • What is/are the ‘pain point’ that client/agency side researchers have and whether that creates a gap with suppliers? Do suppliers understand them?
  • Why do you think the relationship between a client and research agency fails? What experiences have you had where this has happened and what do you think is the reason for those failures?

For myself, as a sales professional who is focused on relationship building in this industry, I went into this line of questioning with eyes wide open in hopes that hearing directly from insight professionals on both sides as well as clients, I would make sure to take care in my own personal actions and outreach and to make sure those are communicated internally with my team.

Widening the Gulf with Misalignment

With the responses we received, it’s clear that the gulf has two main causes: a lack of clear communication and bad previous experiences, but there was variation in the cause for each individual experience, which shaped and formed our respondents’ own particular gulf, making it slightly harder to determine a singular solution to bridging this gap. We go into more detail about these challenges each individual respondent faced in these circumstances in the whitepaper, as I examined each response to the questions posed.

The intention of asking questions focused on Impressions, value, and expectations about market research was to provide an all-important context behind each insight professional’s viewpoints when it comes to working with suppliers or clients in the industry. This contextual detail really helped us build a full picture of the experiences that are happening every day, mostly without our knowing, that work to widen the gulf between client and agency. With our results, we can see that there is a significant perception gap in what client-side insight professionals seek of market research, and the reality of what agencies provide, with errors in judgement on both sides on a number of different expectations and impressions.

Investigation into Communication

As with everything in market research, communication right from the beginning is key to moulding the very fabric of research projects, and it’s the same with the relationship between the research agency provider and the client. Minimising pain points on both the client and agency sides is important, and can be done by educating clients on market research processes for more realistic expectations, and educating agencies on the contextual nature of both the client and the project.

As one notable example that was brought up in our investigation, the amount of progression the research industry has made with the aid of technological innovation and advancement grows every day; providing us with new methodologies that allow us to explore more specific consumer behaviours and experiences, progressing the application of automated processes in relevant areas so the collection of real-time insights improves, and allows insight professionals have a chance to dedicate more time to insight generation, analysis, and activation for their clients. But sometimes clients don’t see this, they just want research that works rather than flashy fads, and a balance needs to be struck between technology and human-research interaction for market research to be truly valuable.

As this growth in understanding of technology occurs, agencies need to work on understanding the client’s demands on a more personal level in order to create the research experience they need. While we all work towards this understanding now, our efforts are falling short of the understanding required to truly tailor our services, the research project, and our mannerisms depending on the client we are interacting with.

There are a lot of challenges as well as solutions that we have identified in this investigation, download the whitepaper to read the full report on the gulf between research client-agency relationships now, and discover the challenges and solutions to bridging this significant gap.

This article was originally published on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.




FlexMR is The Insights Empowerment Company. We help brands to act decisively, stay close to customers and embed agile insight at the heart of every decision.

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FlexMR is The Insights Empowerment Company. We help brands to act decisively, stay close to customers and embed agile insight at the heart of every decision.

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