should your marketing research consultant help you build your business network?

When you hire a marketing consulting firm, your goal is to find the information you need to dominate your market. You’ve decided that you’re going to invest in a third-party firm to provide answers to the questions that matter most for your company, both to ensure their accuracy and thoroughness, and to create a document that will be credible and interesting for press purposes. But as prices for research rise, many companies are asking – should you expect more than just a data sheet?

One market research firm says yes. Lismore International is a global business advisory firm that offers in-depth market research that competes with more traditional market research firms. However, they don’t stop there: they’re changing the game by pairing their research offering with advisory services, most notably introductions to prominent members of their clients’ industries.

“We decided to branch into professional networking and advisory services after realizing that every company that came to us for market research was trying to accomplish the same thing: accelerated business growth,” explains Lisa McClung, Managing Principal. “By introducing new clients to industry leaders we’ve been able to increase the speed at which our clients are able to grow by including expert feedback along with objective data.”

Lismore is, at the moment, the only hybrid firm that offers expert advisory and networking along with market research, but others are not far behind. “We’ve noticed that an increasing number of customers are finding that great market research is only part of the equation for business success. They’re looking for insiders to help discern what the data is really indicating – both for their brand and for the future of the markets they have a stake in,” comments McClung. “As participation in the global economy becomes mandatory, staying competitive is a growing challenge – and that goes for every company. In order for brands to understand how to stay on top, they need more than just statistics: they need experts who have conquered the same or similar challenges to help them navigate the new world.”

The key to greatness for every industry goes beyond just creating solutions to problems – it’s also about finding those problems before customers even realize they have them. In an ideal situation, brand leaders – especially the C-Suite – would all have mentors to turn to for advice and brainstorming. Unfortunately, that’s often not the case, which means that these pivotal team members often go months, if not years without exploring their business with someone who is both more experienced than they are in business function, and naive as to the specifics of their brand’s specific plans, capabilities and functions. This means that many brands fail because they simply lose sight of how the outside world sees them.

When brand and product leaders realize that they aren’t sure how or why their customers are behaving the way they are, they often turn to market research to discover the truth. Understanding the data around trends and behavioral patterns certainly does answer the “what” of customer behavior, but until that brand understands the “why” of the behavioral changes, they’ll lack the ability to anticipate the next changes.

“As with all things, hindsight is 20/20 when you’re a business leader,” explains McClung. “It’s hard to anticipate what challenges you’ll really face when you’re going through brand building and expansion for the first time. That’s why it’s so important to speak with those who have come before you – they may not be facing the exact same changes on a technical level, but many of the struggles brands face with changing trends have been challenges since the dawn of business. Experts are able to not only tell you how they would handle it, but also look at your brand and give you insight into how customers are perceiving your activities. Essentially, they help you convert the dense mass of data points you receive from a market research study into action items.”

Is the era of market research and advisory services sitting in different silos coming to an end? Are these two critical brand building services quickly combining as more brands demand both? Do you, as a brand leader, need to expand your business network to include industry leaders to help you anticipate what comes next in your market? In short, the answer to all three of those questions is “probably yes.” A statistical report on activities is certainly still valuable, but without a seasoned navigator, it is no longer guaranteed to steer your brand in the right direction. After all, at the end of the day, we’re all in the business of selling to people, not statistics.

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