The MRS Impact conference always encourages innovation and I got the opportunity to share my thoughts on starting a new venture. If you feel that one day you might like to have your own insight consultancy, here are my top tips to help you prepare and give yourself the best possible chance to succeed.
Tip 1: Learn lessons at someone else’s expense before you learn them at your own. Working in a research consultancy will provide you with invaluable insight into what works well and what doesn’t. Whatever the size of agency you are in, ask yourself the question “if it was my agency, what would I do?” When appropriate, share your thoughts with the management team. This will demonstrate your interest in the business and show your entrepreneurial spirit.
Tip 2: Look for something you feel passionately about.
Is there something in the industry that needs to be fixed? Is there something missing? When I started MESH Experience I felt that there was a gap in the market to understand the whole customer experience. And not being able to understand people’s responses to every single touchpoint was stopping me from being able to evaluate all the different pieces of marketing activity I was working on for clients, like Mercedes-Benz, at Claydon Heeley, the direct marketing agency where I was Planning Director.
Tip 3: Build relationships now.
Whether this is with clients or potential partners or even looking for people you trust who might one day become your business partners, be on the lookout now! This is a people business. And there is nothing better than working with people you respect, who challenge you, who complement your skills and help you to achieve your goals. If you are looking for potential business partners, look for people who share your values.
Tip 4: Save!
Setting up a business often means financial sacrifices. The good thing about insight consultancy is that you probably don’t need large capital expenditure to get going, but remember that when you win business, this will probably be needed to employ permanent staff or freelancers to work on it rather than going to pay you. Whilst I was setting up MESH, I was freelancing as a planner for Claydon Heeley. Claydon Heeley kept continuity with their major client and I had some money to pay my mortgage.
Tip 5: Write down your ideas and make small starts.
Before setting up MESH, I had two names for products for research in real-time – EthnoTxt and EvaluTxt. I also have a piece of paper where I had drawn a dashboard for marketing directors where they had different data sources coming together to help them steer their brand on a positive course. Some of the elements that were important to me over 15 years ago continue to live on in MESH: combining data sources, use of tech, memorable outputs (stories, two pagers, workshops), an inclusive agenda (whether harnessing the power of the older demographic or supporting diverse-owned businesses) and dashboard delivery for easy access.
Contributors: Fiona Blades, President & Chief Experience Officer, MESH Experience