This is the second in a monthly series of articles based on interviews with corporate research and insights professionals from a variety of Fortune 5000 corporations. In this series, we’ll explore the best ways for you to connect with market research buyers during the buying & selling process.
In last month’s post, we interviewed Kristin DeGraff, Senior Manager, Consumer Insights for Constellation Brands. This month, our guest is Richard Tanner, Customer Insights Manager/Product Marketing at CareerBuilder.
Richard, I really appreciate you taking the time to help us out for this article. Let’s start with a question about Content Marketing and its use by many insights agencies to build awareness and showcase their thought leadership or expertise. Does content (blogs, eBooks, white papers etc.) help to influence your perception of a firm or your buying decision?
“Yes, if the content is compelling in terms of my business needs. Where content misses the mark is when it focuses too much on new methodologies or techniques and not enough on how the resulting insights improve business outcomes. Case studies can be great if they tell a story of how an insights partnership led to tangible business results. However, I understand case studies are sometimes hard to produce and publicize widely given privacy concerns.”
What about social media? Do you engage with suppliers on Social Media (connect on LinkedIn, follow on Twitter, etc.)? If so, do you use that engagement as part of your evaluation process of potential suppliers? Does it matter if a supplier has a limited or no social presence?
“This might sound a bit contradictory, considering I rarely engage with suppliers on social media and prefer in-person, but I do think it matters that suppliers have a social presence. To me, a social presence is a part of the overall online presence and I see that as critically important when looking up high-level information about the supplier. Going online to do basic background research (via search) is such ingrained behavior that lacking an online presence can raise concerns, whether unwarranted or not, about the capabilities and professionalism of the supplier.”
Richard, when you (or your colleagues) attend conferences… do you go to market research-focused events, those that are focused on the vertical you work in or other types?
“Yes, I go to a few market research-focused events each year. My focus is usually on small to midsize events that I think provide new learning opportunities. I think in-person networking is important, worthwhile, and mutually beneficial. However, I also think there are certain conferences many corporate insights people avoid because of the downright salesy nature of the event. There is one really big annual conference that I know has this negative reputation among the community. Most people are fine with a reasonable mix of sales pitches and thought leadership or best practices learning opportunities but it should be a complementary mix.”
If you are on an email list from a supplier, what would you want to see in their emails that would keep you wanting to receive those emails (rather than opting out)?
“This is a tough one because I think, more and more, everyone’s default is to simply ignore non-critical email altogether. There is just too much and it has crossed the line of being informative vs. overwhelming. Personal 1:1 outreach is so much more effective than list mailing but there are obviously scalability issues with that approach. Here’s my best advice – try to focus on making them entertaining (clever, humorous, catchy) in some way rather than information overload. It’s not an easy thing to do well, but engagement will be higher and you’ll be more likely to impact your perception among the audience.”
What is the #1 thing a potential supplier can do to get on your “short list” for consideration?
“Sharing thought-provoking information that shows they have substantive industry knowledge to help our business. If they can get me thinking about an overall industry challenge in a new or different way then I’m all ears and it’s a very good indicator they will be a valuable partner and not ‘just a supplier.’”
Richard, describe the perfect capabilities presentation from a potential supplier?
“First of all, I think it should be in-person. It should include some macro-level information that contextualizes industry changes and challenges and then shows specifically how they can help provide insights to make better decisions in terms of those challenges. Do your research before attempting to sell your research. Modern methodologies and best practices are really only relevant if they are an improved solution which will lead to better business outcomes. Also, it needs to look high quality from a visual standpoint.”
Describe the perfect proposal from a potential supplier?
“Three pages! Now hear me out… Page one – what are the top business questions we need new insights to inform decisions on? Page two – how are you going to design the project (think methodology) to focus on what’s really important? Page three – when will the results be available and what is the required investment to make it all work? Idealistic, I know, but this would be perfect in my eyes.”
OK, last question… All things (services, pricing, timeframe) being equal between potential suppliers bidding on a project, how do you make your decision?
“For me it’s ‘services’ which in this case I’m using as a proxy for ‘quality.’ I can have internal conversations defending pricing and timing but I can’t share low quality thinking or work commissioned externally and get the necessary buy-in.”
Richard, thanks again for your time and the insights. Our blogs readers will be very appreciative.
Don’t forget to check back next month for Part 3 in this series about selling to market research buyers.