Reflecting on BIG/MRS Conference 2015

Reflecting on BIG/MRS Conference 2015

14 July 2015

Thursday 2nd June saw the return of the BIG/MRS Annual Conference. The event also signified 20 years of the conference and as such it was an appropriate point in time to look at not only how B2B research has developed, but also how it needs to develop in an increasingly competitive society that is being disrupted by digital innovation.

Throughout the day, agency and client side speakers delivered an array of educational and insightful presentations. These generated key learnings and also helped build a path that will allow B2B research to prosper for another 20 years – the key items of which are:

Dispelling the Greatest B2B Myth

One of the greatest preconceptions of B2B research is that it is all about rational processes due to the working context in which B2B transactions are made. However, three alternative perspectives were put forward that questioned this:

  • B2B purchasing is all about the removal of pain and anxiety for the buyer – two areas that are highly emotive
  • The preservative emotion of B2B purchasing is around maintaining professional credibility
  • People buy people – not services and products. This personal connection looks to optimise the removal of pain and preservation of professional credibility

The takeout for B2B researchers here is that we now need to think about how we apply tools of emotional measurement from fields such as neuroscience to get at these evolving issues.

Balancing our Skillset

The initial discussion brought together conflicting perspectives over the skill sets for B2B researchers to take forward. On one side of the table was the push for a revised focus on the traditional statistical, data driven skill sets researchers need. Conversely, there is a greater need from clients for greater insight creativity.

Delineating Insight Work Chains

The current research work flow goes data collection to research agency to client. The need for somewhat conflicting skills – data analytics vs. creative impetus – puts researchers in a place where they are seeking to fill contradicting roles. As insight teams have developed they have taken on more functions, meaning linear work chains often omit key skills that will be needed in the future. The role of the researcher therefore needs to develop from one that is trying to stretch their conflicting skills sets to one that needs to orchestrate the collaboration of many skillsets to generate added value insight.

Fight Disruption with Disruption

The role of disruption in everyday consumer functions – taxis via Uber, hotels via AirBnB – needs to be matched in the world of business services. Insight functions are under more pressure than ever to do things differently, rewrite the research rule book and start marketing our insights within the corporate hierarchy in new ways. This reinforces the need for new skills and a new approach to research workstreams.

Refining Our Traditional Toolkit

But within all of this, what is the role of our trusted tool, the survey? Nobody is suggesting the survey will be dead – it just needs to be reinvented, disrupted if you will. To do this we need to look at external industries such as advertising and away from our traditional social science background in order to prolong the life of what remains a key data collection tool.

So, where does B2B research need to go in the next 20 years in order to continue its relevancy?

  • At the moment B2B research is somewhat chasing the tail of wider societal trends – in the future we’d be better suited to keep closer to the curve
  • All of this needs to be reflected in how agencies brand themselves – and not just their logos. The language we use, the job titles we hold and the way we take a more immersive role within client organisations
  • The new space we need to target is not the planners meeting or the marketer’s brainstorm – but the share of mind of the executive

In summation, the complex skills needed for B2B insight in the future, the many tools we have available to us now and the target we are now aiming for suggests that B2B insight has the foundations for another 20 years of prosperity.

For more information, please contact Jack Miles by email at or by phone at 0207 259 1755.

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