Do we focus too much on what clients say? Should we focus more on what they do?

In recent online discussions, for example in LinkedIn and on the GreenBookBlog, there has been a growing number of research buyers talking about what they are looking for from research agencies, and the focus seems to be people. In particular, clients say, they are particularly seeking agencies who have people who see the big picture, who can synthesize multiple types of data, and who can create an engaging story to convey the insight. At ESOMAR Congress this week there were three presentations (from DVL Smith, Ruby Cha Cha, and a Truth/Nokia combination) reporting the same thing, including two studies amongst clients which played down the importance of brute force and scale, and which extolled creative synergy. But, as researchers, we rarely believe that consumers can tell us what the motivations of their behaviour are. It is generally agreed that people can’t describe their own decision hierarchies – as Mark Earls says, we are poor witnesses to our own motivations. And, since clients are people too, why do researchers so often take what clients say at face value? When researchers can’t be sure about what people mean, we look at what they do. So, let’s look at the recently published ESOMAR […]