The good news for our industry is that, according to AURA's Rosemary Hadden, client companies are genuinely more satisfied with the quality of service that they receive from qualitative researchers than their quantitative counterparts.

From her standpoint, and that of many clients attending, specialist qualitative agencies offer more continuity of service and involvement, both at the early stages of projects and on an ongoing basis, than the largest research companies. They manage this through the simple means of fielding a consistent team, familiar with the client's brands and business.

What has changed is that clients now insist on insight and direction from qualitative research, rather than fact finding and reportage.

The seminar saw AQR's Kevin McLean and Philly Desai divide us into small groups to discuss issues arising from the presentation. We were asked to debate whether they would encourage or inhibit the inclusion of researchers within the client team.

So what did we discuss? Well, the topics included:

  • How a good qualitative researcher could provide continuity of knowledge of the client's brands, and act as a stakeholder of the brand;

  • The pressure to complete research within short timetables in an attempt to meet the needs of the marketing team;

  • The need to include the researcher at very early stages of the project rather than bringing one in near the start time;

  • A requirement that researchers should design research relevant to the client's business, and be prepared to draw on new ­ and less traditional sources of data;

  • The client's reluctance to allow researchers to read previous research as part of the background to the project, even though this would avoid complaints of de-briefs which re-invent the wheel and enable them to provide strategic input and future direction to each project.

Our discussions led us to suggest that some clients need to be aware of the benefits of allowing the researcher to take a strategic stance rather than simply conducting the next piece of research. They would also benefit from allowing the researcher to play a consultancy role within the client company.

Rosemary, meanwhile, touched on the issues for suppliers who wanted to be included in the client side team: ensuring that the project has the backing of the marketing team, that the brief has a budget before it is issued to the suppliers, and that the supplier should engage early on to help write the brief in full in good time. The down side is that this can only be achieved with a sympathetic client.