In the Editorial column of the May 2011 issue of Research magazine, Editor Brian Tarran summarised that research buyers are expecting more from their market research agencies than they have done in the past, fuelled by concern over a perceived “competitive equilibrium” they have with rivals, where each buys the same services from the same or similar agencies. This comment could equally be extended to non-commercial organisations where approaches and thinking adopted can become prescriptive and routine, hampering rather than facilitating progress in understanding and effectiveness.

While larger agencies can inevitably cite a larger portfolio of work, the smaller specialist agency can often offer something unique (both technologically and analytically), with obvious competitive edge for commercial organisations and an opportunity to make a step change for their non-commercial counterparts.  The dichotomy for the research buyers can be illustrated with a simile. You are purchasing an art work and are presented with a competent nicely framed print or a blank sheet of paper with  the potential for a creative original work of art: which would you choose?

Unfortunately creativity and intellectual input is difficult to encompass within the confines of the written proposal without it appearing prescriptive and an off-the-shelf solution or appearing irrelevant and nebulous. There are challenges here for both buyers and agencies alike.