One of the challenges that the market research industry battles with is the agile recruitment of experts. How to find the experts they need for a project, often at short notice and without the internal resources to manage ostensibly simple, yet inevitably time-consuming activities.
For us at Gatehouse, this gap fits seamlessly with our unique model, where we have intentionally invested in an entry-level tier and an internship program, which seeks to introduce people to the life sciences industry.
One of the activities that we start people out on is stakeholder identification and engagement, which is finding people to interview and then securing that interview. We also train them on screening contacts. So, if someone is interested in engaging, we give them a list of questions and a set of criteria to assess whether they are right for that project. We also train them on data protection and GDPR principles and ensure they follow the appropriate permissions and approvals process for retaining an expert’s information. We go above-and-beyond basic data protection requirements with a check-in with those experts to ensure they are happy to remain on the lists that we build.
This training programme helps our entry-level staff to become familiar with the industry, including global health systems and the roles and responsibilities of the experts in it. With this training, they get a brief about the next batch of people we are going to interview, they have a good understanding of the different systems and breadth of roles in the industry, and they know how to engage with those experts.
A happy by-product of the industry awareness that these activities generate is that we have a capable team available to be pivoted to a new search at a moment's notice and very quickly find hard-to-reach experts from atypical roles or geographies
We invest a lot of time and energy in overseeing that team to make sure it's robust, as well as quick and agile. This oversight is managed by our tier of experienced professionals – from project managers upwards – who have years of experience in identifying and interviewing experts in the life sciences industry, in a compliant, academically robust and commercially insightful way.
While we could choose to have those senior people focus exclusively on bigger projects with a higher price tag, we have deliberately chosen to have this blended approach where they are investing their time in our entry level tier.
How the process works
A typical market research project involves securing, interviewing and transcribing the interview notes with about 12 global experts, followed by analysing the findings and producing strategically insightful PowerPoint slides. Our entry-level staff are trained to secure the interviews and transcribe them, while our experienced staff conduct the interviews and handle the analysis.
Because many of the processes involve our entry-level staff, we established an appropriate and sustainable price point, so that the consultancy that is outsourcing these activities retains their profit without having to divert their own staff away from more value-added projects.
By bringing in our senior staff to oversee the process and manage the interviews, we also ensure consultancies retain their reputation with their client. And, we come under that consultancy as a contractor, operating with their email addresses and under their auspices so they remain the client contact.
While we have developed a very streamlined and efficient methodology that allows us to reach out extensively, we do everything manually; we never use automation or bots to create mass email campaigns. There's an intentional selection of an individual, who is sent a customised, carefully crafted message.
Consultancies pay us only for those experts we manage to recruit, and not if we don’t fill the quota. We’ve ensured the model is highly flexible; for example, a consultancy can use us for anything from identifying one expert at short notice through to doing the full work programme, which is identifying, interviewing and reporting. The entry level-tier/senior-tier model began after requests from one client and has since grown to many consultancies using us in this way, including some big names in market research.
While there is often an upward pressure to take on more projects that use only our senior staff, we resist that because we believe this is a desirable offering for our clients. Our hybrid approach – bringing together entry-level and senior staff – is one of the reasons we can take on projects that other consultancies wouldn’t consider. Indeed, when I think about our competitors in the space (i.e. lower price point support with market research that ensures the outsourcing consultancy retains a profit) very few are in places or with staff with English as a first language. It also keeps our senior staff connected to our entry-level employees, creating a richer working environment and building a process that works for each stakeholder.