A recent article by Dana Stanley looked at an excerpt from an interview with Tiffany McNeil of Del Monte Foods regarding her process for selecting the right MR firm for a given job. Stanley’s article – How Not To Get Market Research Clients – basically presents that excerpt. After reading it, I think there’s something more to be said, not only what not to do, but what firms should do.
Let’s start with Stanley’s article on what you shouldn’t do. McNeil’s advice is this—don’t leave a message, don’t cold email. Not only are people in her position flooded with them, but on a personal level they make McNeil feel guilty for not replying, which isn’t the way any business relationship should start (if one starts at all). She goes on to say that when she’s looking for a new firm, the first thing she does is ask around. Word of mouth is the most powerful tool in the industry, and once she has a few companies on her radar, they’ll reach out to whomever they think can do the job.
But what if you don’t have that word of mouth? How do you go about getting people like McNeil to notice you in the first place? Knowing what the client doesn’t want you to do, what, then, do you do?
Here’s where we can add to Stanley’s article. Earlier in the interview, McNeil talks about some of the things she likes about the firms she’s worked with. What she really likes—and what she says are in short supply—are firms that go the extra mile in follow-up collaboration on a project, not those who pour their energies into getting a contract and peter out after they do. Having someone ‘smart and engaged on the other end of the phone’ make for the best partnerships.
So when McNeil goes on to talk about word of mouth, this is something like what she means. Further, she gives the example of a project where she needed a really smart analytics team. One company she named she’d heard about at a conference, as well as seen on a list published by Greenbook blog. McNeil said her company reached out to them, and here’s why—she knew what they could do.
Here’s the takeaway—companies will hear about who they need to hear about. Keep your firm’s defining specializations in focus. Go to conferences, contests, and client meetings with these things in mind, and deliver, and word will get around.