For insights that drive big ideas, awards, and the bottom line, agency partners and marketing leaders have to use the best tools available to differentiate and stay ahead of competition. Join Landor & Fitch, R/GA, and NewtonX for a candid conversation on how leading organizations uplevel their insights practices in the era of creative efficiency.
- Christian Kugel, SVP, Global Managing Director, Applied Intelligence, R/GA
- Maarten Lagae, Executive Director of Insights & Analytics, Americas, Landor & Fitch
- Jackie Cutrone, Head of Brand & Marketing, NewtonX
No time to watch the webinar? Read on for the takeaways.
Use the Agency Insights Ecosystem to solve complex research challenges
Maarten: Over the past 5-10 years, the agency world has grown overwhelmingly project based. AOR relationships are increasingly rare, which certainly has intensified competition between agencies. Research is essential for us to win more business, and we invest heavily in our in-house capabilities and external partner network.
We often work on B2B brand transformation projects in the context of mergers & acquisitions or spin-offs, which is “once-in-a-lifetime” for most of our clients. They need to handle a lot of pressure and make important strategic decisions quickly. We think there is tremendous value in having high quality data and proof points to guide those decisions and align organizations. In order to deliver this value, we have to be incredibly efficient and flexible in terms of capabilities, workstreams, and client ecosystems.
Agencies are like multidimensional puzzles, ranging in categories, markets and audiences. To solve these puzzles, we must create a research stack that allows us to flex between these categories.
SVP, Global Managing Director, Applied Intelligence, R/GA
Christian: I agree with Maarten’s take. Thinking about R/GA, and what we do for clients, we’re a creative agency. Clients work with us for a creative output. So the context for incorporating research is just that – serving, inspiring, and hopefully elevating the creative output. And because of this, it’s critically important for us to have an integrated approach – working with strategists and creatives throughout the entire process.
Similar to how Maarten described it, we’ve built (and continue to tweak) our stack that enables us to implement research across a wide range of consumer, B2B, and other niche audiences, across a wide range of clients. We also have to take into account use cases – marketing campaigns, brand design, CRM, products and experiences. So it turns into a multi-dimensional problem to solve. Compounding this further is that we are not in the position to have long R&D cycles – because like any agency, the revenue comes from client projects.
The way I think about solving this problem is by applying a “5 Ps” framework: People, Platforms, Partnerships, Process, and Products. I’ve found these are the ingredients to creating a productive insights ecosystem.
Clients & research buyers can find greater marketing success by trading convenient data for custom data
Maarten: It is easy for companies and marketers to get overwhelmed by data, get distracted by noise, or worse – take decisions based on an incomplete or biased picture. If you’re looking to attract a new customer segment, your current customer satisfaction survey isn’t very useful. And if you’re planning to manage a brand by simply looking at social media data, you might as well drive your car on the highway just using a flashlight.
There is a risk of over-relying on ‘convenient data’ because it is readily/easily available, but actually irrelevant or even potentially misleading to guide decisions. It requires more rigor, time and resources to find multi-faceted answers and develop solid business cases that unlock budgets, board approval and ultimately business growth. We are often asked to look at the financial implications of large-scale brand transformations such as rebrands, pack changes, spin-offs, mergers, etc. and build business cases for the CFO or Board of Directors. It is critical that we use high quality data as the foundation for such important business decisions. And that is not always convenient.
Christian: I think one area where it gets challenging is when there is perhaps a client who hasn’t been involved in a lot of B2B research. For those who have – they understand the specific requirements, timelines, tradeoffs that are associated with it, as well as the higher cost.
It is critical that we use high quality data as the foundation for such important business decisions. And that is not always convenient.
Executive Director of Insights & Analytics, Landor & Fitch
I’ve never had an issue where a client didn’t understand that researching a niche audience was more expensive and takes longer – and that there are certain unknowns we have to accept until we get into it. The issue that does come up is total identified budget. And that’s where the mutual trust and expertise with our clients become really important. We can have a frank debate about the tradeoffs and end up in a good place.
I would say timelines associated with doing B2B research are a bigger issue, because longer timelines tend to inflate the overall cost of the project – not just the research itself. Planning the milestones and adhering the schedule so that it doesn’t slip then becomes an all-team effort.
Deliver on tight timelines with responsive research stacks
Christian: For a long time, I would argue the research industry was under-innovated. There was development on products and bringing new products to market, but not so much in terms of innovation as a force of disruption. And that started to change maybe 7 or so years ago. Now, as an agency, we actually can build a stack/mechanism where we are able to create and implement research initiatives quickly, but still at a high level of rigor and quality.
Given the timelines that we face, most everything we do has to be self service, or at least as much as it can be. This is of course easier in the consumer context than in B2B. That’s where optimized processes and ways of working become important.
Pitches are typically the most time-compressed part of what we do. If we can make our research approach work in pitches, they’ll work on the projects. So our ecosystem is built to deliver on the thing where we tend to have the least time – the pitch. It’s really important to of course align the effort (and cost) with the magnitude of the decisions that are being made. I’m not a fan of using a sledgehammer to kill a fly, but some projects do compel the use of a sledgehammer vs. a flyswatter.
Maarten: What I personally love about pitching new projects for our agency is that none of them are ever the same. We work with an incredibly diverse set of companies, from iconic B2B brands in visible industries to brands in small niches. From Microsoft and FedEx to leaders in automotive software, healthcare/medtech, digital transformation, freight shipping & logistics, and so on. Working with NewtonX allows us to get access to a similarly diverse set of stakeholders and experts to learn from.
To Christian’s point, there is a lot of innovation happening in B2B now and no signs of slowing down anytime soon. We’re always investigating and testing new technologies, methods and tools that deliver new value, save time and money, and unlock new insights to keep up and even stay ahead of the curve.
Working with NewtonX allows us to get access to a diverse set of stakeholders and experts to learn from.
Executive Director of Insights & Analytics, Landor & Fitch
I am part of a global team of 40+ people across 15 countries and we tap into a network of partners. We are very thoughtful about the capabilities we build in-house and tools we use and which tasks we can outsource. We have organized ourselves internally to make it easier to tap into the right talent and capabilities across all of our global studios.
Ultimately, it is about balancing the need for consistency though standardization and automation with the need for customization and tailored solutions for specific challenges and opportunities.
B2B research partners need to step up as business accelerating partners
Christian: I meet with lots of potential partners – I’m paranoid that I’m missing things, and I’m sure that I am. Yet I can’t tell you how many times the initial meeting has started off with the vendor saying “could you tell me about R/GA and what your business looks like and what your goals are?” And then I do that, and then it literally doesn’t affect anything that comes after – the slides are the same, the pitch is the same, it tends to be generic, and I feel like I’ve wasted my time.
The best partners are the ones who have empathy for my situation, for my pressures, for my outstanding problems. And orient their capabilities to be business accelerators. Too many vendors in this space are focused on “product and services” selling. The best ones focus on “business accelerator” selling – how they can bring a capability to help me run the overall project in a way that’s commercially favorable.
Maarten: Firstly, I am glad to hear I am not the only one suffering from innovation FOMO. I do spend a lot of time trying to understand new capabilities and find grounds for partnerships with new potential vendors.
The best B2B research partners focus on “business accelerator” selling – how they can bring a capability to help me run the overall project in a way that’s commercially favorable.
SVP, Global Managing Director, Applied Intelligence, R/GA
Unfortunately, it is hard to find mutual grounds for partnerships because of all the reasons Christian mentioned. Agencies are hard customers, I get that. We move fast and are dealing with both internal and external business pressures all the time. Our best partners, including NewtonX, have sales people who respond to our briefs with questions, chat us through options and create customized plans together for us and our clients.
Another potential hurdle to overcome is being on top and buttoned up on all things legal, data and privacy protection. The legal landscape is constantly evolving, and so are our policies to protect the interest of our clients and ourselves.
Finally, flexibility is perhaps the most understated quality in our partners. Our own sales processes tend to take multiple weeks and we’re often required to iterate our initial approach and deliverables as we uncover new information and shift our focus once we get to do the work.
Jackie: I’d like to put a final lens on this from the supplier perspective and how we as suppliers can be good partners to our clients.
There is not a one size fits all approach to B2B, and we collaborate with clients to customize the research plan to their needs.
NewtonX, Head of Brand & Marketing
First, it’s about taking the time to understand what your client is trying to solve for, and tailoring a recommendation that fits their timeline and budget – it’s sometimes different from what they had in mind, and usually that thought partnership is appreciated.
When we do a search, we bring our feasibility expertise to our clients. We ask questions like: Do you want to open up the seniority here? Refine keywords and skills there? We can do that with our NewtonX Knowledge Graph and ability to reach 1.1 billion professionals. A careful measure twice/cut once approach combined with the ability to bring you the absolute best professionals for the task,
Of course, our clients want 100% verification of everyone who participates, and that’s our standard, further ensuring the quality of the respondent and therefore the data.
“Delivery” is also an expansive term for us. Sometimes our clients just want raw data. Other times it’s crosstabs, and sometimes it’s a top line report or a fully fledged deck with charts and insights. We flex to what our clients want, whether it’s a turnkey B2B sample or McKinsey style analysis. There is not a one size fits all approach to B2B, and we collaborate with clients to customize the research plan to their needs.
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