AIMRI meeting in Amsterdam

More or less all of us are confronted with the task of “Surmounting problems in market research”, the subject of the AIMRI meeting in Amsterdam on June 11th 2010.

The economic crisis has changed our working environment considerably: the necessity to save cost on the clients’ side, their tendency to live with research that is cheaper, faster and good enough and the decline in the number of potential customers in various markets are just examples of the problems we have to cope with.

What can be seen as a positive selection process on a macro-economic level, the consolidation of an industry during an economic crisis, incurs dramatic consequences for individual MR companies. Some will disappear, others will merge or be taken over and some will survive. So, how can we make sure that we will be the ones that survive?

Jack Semler of Readex Research, Johnny Heinmann of analysegruppen, Ruth Stanat of SIS International and Richard Sheldrake of Perspective contributed valuable thoughts, guidelines and inspirations for survival. Obviously, most of these ideas related to our core business and its organisation but also some innovative new business ideas were presented and discussed.

These reached from an incentives service provider giftdonkey.com and a market’s choice award engine docvote.com, both set up by Jack Semler, to a joint venture named nordicinterviewing.com established by Johnny Heinmann.

Most fruitful was the discussion on measures to cope with problems. Some of the issues were: “In what areas of your business should cost not be cut?”, “How far in advance can you predict results?”, “What should be outsourced and what shouldn’t?”, “How to handle difficult clients” and the “Top 10 not to do”.

Ruth Stanat reported experiences with specifications being aggravated after contract signature and how to protect oneself against such behaviour. Obviously, one of the measures is to include extensive and detailed project definitions in our proposals.

Richard Sheldrake led a vivid discussion on the subject “is ‘good enough’ good enough?”

As Johnny Heinmann pointed out in his paper: “The demand for MR is there, but it is different. Actually, MR is needed more than ever!”

So what is asked for during hard times is adaptation to the changing requirements of the market. Measures suggested by the participants were: Protect profit and avoid losses, e.g. by reducing fixed costs to a level where you can afford to lose 30% in sales and still make a profit. Avoid bad or risky projects, insist on 50% advanced payment. Outsource work than can be done cheaper by others in order to remain competitive. And above all: Work smarter, not harder!

As Charles Darwin said: It is not the strongest or most intelligent of a species that survives, it the one that is most adaptable to change!

So, in spite of the open question how long the crisis will last the conference was closed in a quite optimistic mood and we embarked on an adventurous evening excursion by boat through the beautiful Amsterdam canals to our extravagant restaurant in an old harbour warehouse “Hotel de Goudfazant”. It appeared to be the in-place of Amsterdam, fully packed, and we enjoyed excellent food there. 

Fritz Brandes

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