Business-to-business research, evolution towards consultancy?

Date of publication: June 15, 1988


The question that the paper addresses is whether companies currently engaged in conventional business to business research should evolve into consultancy. The first section begins by establishing definitions and setting out the general approach that has been established for the paper. This includes adopting the development of new business to business research 'products' as the baseline against which diversification into consultancy might be judged and also setting criteria. The second section examines the scope for product innovation within business to business research, including an evaluation of developments over the last 25 years. This incorporates an overview of the evolution of consumer as well as business to business research and in particular of technological innovation. The third section reviews how business to business research has evolved in recent years and identifies the key problems that have emerged. This is followed in Section Four by an examination of the competition facing the business to business research agencies in their own sector. This highlights the vulnerability of the agencies to attack from the major consultancy companies and from individual operators alike. The nature of the consultancy market is considered in Section Five, including a listing of the principal players and the factors that have lead to their growth and success. In Section Six the main conclusions drawn from the previous sections are brought together to define the preconditions and routes available to business to business agencies who are contemplating entering consultancy. Section Seven sets out the summary of conclusions, thus bringing the paper to a close. The principal conclusion is that despite the obvious attractions of consultancy, at the present time the average business to business research agency is likely to obtain a better return from investing in developing technical superiority in the design and execution of business to business research than from entering consultancy. This would not only reduce the vulnerability of the agencies to their competitors, but it would also provide a secure foundation for developing new business to business research products in the years ahead and for entering consultancy.

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