This article is based on a presentation given at Qual360, Washington DC 2016.
Boutique market research agencies and providers are extremely well placed to cater to international clients’ needs. We deal daily in flexibility, partnership and communication; hallmarks of efficient and effective international project management and execution.
To operate successfully on an international stage, boutique providers must be agile and inventive, with a strong partner network.
Here are five international project management & execution strategies for boutique providers to keep in mind:
- Pull together a network of partners (not vendors). Your local teams are essential to the success of the project. Being a partner means that listening and recommending is a two way street. Involved them as early as you can in the process and vet them to make sure you work stylistically well together.
- Trust your partners. Then comes the difficult but necessary step of giving up enough control to trust them with their culture and let them translate your approach into something that will work there/for them. Check your ego at the door. You don’t know the best way of doing everything. Research techniques and considerations should vary by location. All those differences are reasons you’re doing research there, isn’t it? Be the advocate of local knowledge. Be the buffer between client’s desire for continuity and local nuances.
- Immerse yourself. Set clocks in both your client and your participants’ time zones, follow their local news and weather and put their holidays in your calendar. Do anything you can think of to put yourself in touch with what is going on in their world. This enables you to start a conference call with a mention of the latest storm, strike or election. You become sensitive to the news and needs of the market you’ll be going into.
- Immerse your client. Even if the client thinks they know the target market and location because they’ve done a store visit, take them a step further out of their comfort zone. Order local food, arrange a walking tour with a local guide, anything to help everyone on the team experience the differences around them.
- Keep it organized. Offer a selection of tools (usually a combination of a preferred meeting software and document sharing/storage solutions) to run the project logistics and make sure they work for everyone on the team. Make sure everyone begins and leaves the fieldwork having shared their expectations and impression of the experience. Co-Briefing and Co-Debriefing sessions are essential to the continuity of the work and your ability to improve the process next time.
These solutions and strategies are not of course limited to boutique providers. Researchers from any size institution can benefit from a strong partner network, personal and client immersion and thoughtful organization when running international projects.