Adience is a B2B research specialist, focused on helping B2B organizations better understand what their customers and prospects think and need, as well as how they behave. The company’s key services are:
- Go-to-market research (i.e. understanding how to target a new audience our launch into a new market)
- B2B segmentation and persona research
- Thought leadership and content marketing research
- B2B product development and strategy (e.g. ideation, pricing)
- B2B brand development + strategy research
- Benchmarking and tracking perceptions (satisfaction, NPS, etc)
- Media and comms strategy research
- Due diligence research
We sat down with Managing Director Chris Wells to learn more about the company.
What is the number-one area of improvement your business is working on (e.g., speed to insights, DIY tools, improving data quality, etc.)?
As companies increasingly build out their digital offerings they are likely to access more data and insights into customer behavior without needing to resort to marketing research. To give just one example of this, product analytics software can provide businesses with really detailed insights about user behavior in their digital products, such as which user cohorts are using which features to do what.
The question we are asking ourselves is: what’s the role of marketing research in this new world? In our opinion, one of the main roles of research will be to supplement these data sets with a deeper, and more empathetic, understanding of B2B decision-makers. There are needs and behaviors that may not show up in a company’s data set that need to be surfaced.
A recent viral story gives a good, consumer-focused, example of what we’re talking about. Jumbo, a Dutch supermarket, introduced slow checkouts for people who enjoy chatting. It appears that these lanes have been a great success. There’s a lot of data out there that buyers are happier when they don’t have to wait in long check-out lines, and I imagine Jumbo’s data is no different. While the ‘slow lanes’ might have seemed counter-intuitive, their introduction suggests that the supermarket had a deep understanding of their customers that used alongside their broader data analysis.
In terms of how we get to that understanding in B2B markets? You’ll have to get in touch with us to set up a conversation, I’m not giving away our secret sauce here!
What are the most common problems that brands bring to your door?
The thing we hear most from new clients is the same problem I’ve been hearing for the 13 years I’ve been in the B2B research industry: ‘We’re struggling to find a research partner who can access our target audience.’
I think there are several reasons for this. First, lots of agencies who conduct B2B research aren’t specialists in B2B and just assume that what works for consumers will work for business decision-makers.
Second, and most importantly, there’s a lot of ‘magical thinking’ that goes on in B2B research, especially when it comes to quantitative surveys.
Clients, understandably, want it to be easy, cheap, and quick to survey B2B audiences. Many agencies are unwilling to have the honest/hard conversation with clients that B2B audiences are not so easy, cheap, or quick to survey.
My favorite, and extreme, example of this is a situation where a prospect wanted to do a survey of 1,000 C-suite decision-makers within enterprises and had been assured by another agency that this would be possible through an online panel. When we spoke to the brand in more detail we worked out that the agency was claiming to get enterprise C-suite decision-makers for a CPI of less than $10. In what world are 1,000 (or any?) senior executives each giving up 10 minutes of their time for that little money?
We see a lot of smart people and companies coming up with interesting solutions to data quality and fraud issues. Every month I see a fascinating new article about how to solve the problem – take this, this, and this, for example – but they’re all solving the wrong problem, as far as B2B research is concerned. There’s no point using all these techniques and technology to vet respondents that come from the wrong sources. It’s like skimming off the mold from the top of a jar of jam when the entire jar is moldy.
The B2B research industry needs to reject ‘magical thinking’ and have hard conversations with clients about quant sampling. B2B audiences can be surveyed at scale, but it’s not cheap, easy, or quick. And it’s better to go for quality over quantity.
It does seem like several brands are coming round to our way of thinking. In the past 2 years, we’ve had several B2B organizations move their brand trackers to us because they fundamentally didn’t trust the data they were getting from their incumbent agency. When we dug into the old data we could see why.
Tell us a bit about how you decided to form your company and how you went about growing it in its early stages.
Ultimately, Adience was created because of a gap in the market. Before we launched, I was hearing from a lot of clients and prospects that they were struggling to find a partner that:
- Could deliver global B2B research to a high standard. In particular, a lot were not happy with the quality of B2B data (see my comment earlier)
- Could build short, punchy presentations that got to the point and made clear business recommendations. Every agency talks about ‘not dumping data’, but in reality most are still stuck in the 90s when you see their decks
- Was transparent during the research process. For example, letting clients get involved in analysis brainstorms, or letting them sit in on interviews
- Was agile enough to do things on clients’ terms. To give a really minor example, a lot of tech brands mentioned the fact that internally they used Google Docs and Slack to collaborate, but that their research agencies insisted on Microsoft Office and email. It’s a minor thing, but it’s illustrative of the inflexibility that’s common among traditional agencies
How did we grow in our early stages? Partly by trying to be present any time someone was looking for a B2B research agency, partly through word of mouth and referrals. Ultimately, the best marketing you can do is doing a good job for your existing clients.
What surprised you most about being an entrepreneur?
I did not anticipate the number of people that would try to sell their services to us!
Being bombarded with sales calls and emails has actually been useful for us as it’s helped us to put ourselves in the shoes of our target audience. If little old Adience gets this much outbound outreach, imagine how much our clients and prospects are getting. We take that into account when we design our sales and marketing strategy, as we don’t want to be just another voice among many.