Call them vendors, they will sell

The message of this blog is that the recent trend to calling researchers and agencies 'vendors' is bad for research. 

Call them vendors they will sell; call us research designers and we will think.

Clients keep telling researchers they are doing too much selling and not enough thinking. Three examples:


Hector Paris of Etihad speaking at a recent newmr webinar was very very clear on this point: "we need the thinkers"....  we don't need the sellers". He wanted "people who can make a complex world simple". I encourage you to listen to the whole talk, as I have only picked out a couple of his main points.

Quirks' Corporate Researcher Report cited client-side researchers asking research agencies (they called them 'vendors' but there's the problem right there) to "take the time" to understand their business and the project. How appalling that they should even have to ask that!

The report I wrote for the newmr social media experiment revealed that "corporate clients described their relationship with research suppliers as in some way imperfect. Some were dissatisfied with their experience. Others were satisfied but looking for more."  Clients wanted researchers who would challenge them. One point not made in the report: that to find these client-side researcher conversations, I had to wade through thousands of supplier-side researchers' blogs, tweets and posts selling techniques and in some cases bad-mouthing competitors' techniques. Why on earth would clients engage with that kind of conversation?

I guess the 'vendor' language has come from procurement. There is no reason at all why we should follow suit. It creates a 'frame' through which we will inevitable see the world.


Our philosophy at Susan Bell Research is to think carefully about the problem at the design stage, because the care we take to understand the problem at the beginning leads  smoothly to interpreting the findings in a way that our clients can use easily. We are thinkers. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.if you would like us to think about your problem and design the right research for you.