Monday, 4 February 2008

Can big companies act small?

During lunch, I came across a post from last week of AttentionMax's blog with the title: can big companies act small? In short, Max concludes that being big has many advantages, but acting small is not one of them. And yet, I happen to work at a research company who prides itself for being "the biggest small company" in the industry. And although not officially our pay-off, it is shared throughout the company and even our CEO uses the buzzline in interviews. Looking at our business, clients tend to fall into different categories.

Some are highly centralized — the global decisions are made in one or two locations. For those companies, they probably want to deal with a supplier who could mirror that. It is possible to deal with someone who doesn’t have a global network but I think there is a level of reassurance in working with a group. Would these be best served by TNS or GfK?

There are other clients who have a decentralized approach but they still might have preferred or recommended suppliers so although it’s not strictly leveraging the global power of a research group, it’s that sort of reassurance again that they’ll be able to do the same kind of job. Probably smaller local research shops would be the first choice for these clients...

The ideal is, a client wants to work with a local boutique where he knows everybody and he has a very strong personal relationship and that boutique somehow magically has global capabilities.

And that last situation in a sense is that what Synovate is trying to create, that level of service and that level of intimacy, not just with client relations but for staff. In fact Synovate is cited in the marketing's guru 2007 edition of "Marketing Management" (by Philip Kotler) as a successful example of branding and building a global business. The fact that Synovate has no global head office is mentioned too:

Synovate's identity doesn't emanate from a central head office but involves and reflects all of our people across the world. Ask any of my colleagues where our headquarters is and the reply will be "we don't have a HQ" ... "We can work in any location"... "We have Centres of Excellence all over the world"...

It's this type of believe that makes us believe that we are the biggest small research company in the world and this will help us build our business. So what do you think, will our strategy eventually work out to service clients best by offering the best of a global company and of the small...?

Drop me a line...

1 comment:

  1. Hi... interesting post. As I've heard from some Synovate colleagues: "Being the Biggest Small Company in the World is a really very hard promise to fulfill... you can't be close to your clients when a Research Director have +30 projects running at the same time."

    I wonder how many projects manage a boutique research company at the same time... maybe 10?

    I think ESOMAR (yes, we "only" have ESOMAR) should research this benchmark index:

    Nr. of research employees / Nr. of research projects / Nr. of research clients ... I bet Synovate, Ipsos, TNS or GFK are very similar companies based on this index...

    By the way... is there an operational definition of "boutique company"?

    Pablo S.