To continue the saga of my discoveries, I’ve decided to do more than one paragraph at a time. I’m not sure I’d live long enough to get to the end of the book if I keep going at that rate.
So, here’s the next installment (continuing the story of doing market research at a small ad agency):
We also frequently unearthed some tidbits that could have major financial consequences, and it was wonderful to be able to tell clients how much money they could save or gain in additional revenues. We did a number of projects where clients had double-digit returns on the money they spent on research. That turned a research spend into an investment, something any decent businessperson would appreciate. Those were the best assignments we had, and they usually led to repeat business for us.
One of our most memorable projects involved a commercial feasibility test for an engineering firm. During the presentation of the results, the president of the client company jumped up, banged his fist on the table, and shouted, “Holy shit! I knew it!”
He was a large, florid man, who looked like he might have a bad temper, and I wasn’t sure if he was pleased or planned to hit me. Fortunately, as it turned out, he was extremely pleased. His company of left-brained engineers had convinced him that a new idea they had would make them all rich and famous. Our research showed that interest in it among companies that might be likely to buy it was lukewarm at best.
The results of the research saved his company at least a million dollars in development costs. That man was one happy client. This is the kind of
experience market researchers live for.
His project and others provided extraordinary case histories when we prospected for new business, and we loved telling those stories. Although the work was a passion for me, I did not initially enjoy sharing the results with clients. Eventually, after years of practice, my skills improved, and those presentations even became somewhat pleasurable. Like many ad agencies, ours was a culture of being somewhat intimidated by our clients—since in their minds they were always right. Of course, they pay the bills. As someone with a less than robust dose of self-confidence, I fit into that culture easily, so it took some time for me to relax enough to enjoy what I did well. I liked the prospecting even less until I learned to let the prospects talk first and then explain to them how we could help them. It was like telling a story. Then it became fun.
Perhaps this was a hint that I might be good at telling stories?