Indiefield project manager helping a market research client

The Indiefield Blog

Ideas and thoughts about market research fieldwork in the UK.

Straight or curly?

(This isn't about my hair!)

It is possible to be straight and curly at the same time. Straight is the tough thing to improve once the processes are in place. After all it is hard to get straighter than straight. Good processes keep the business running smoothly, create order that is valued, but improving them gets more difficult as well. Trying to make the organised more organised is a pain in the proverbial. But within your work you can find something liberating - something wild even! You can create productive chaos, you can interrupt, re-create, produce, invent, and redefine. There you go, now everything is bouncy and curly. And you just made the straight ruler even straighter.

Be Specific!


Tell people exactly what you are doing and make sure they know it will happen.

"I've got this and I'm on it"

"You will have it today"

No-one wants an automated reply that says "up to 5 working days". Clients want to know that you care more about their projects than that.

Gone Bust!


What a poetic phrase! It literally means that you have spent or lost all your money and are broken. And for a company to "go bust" it must be "declared insolvent". Not saying it or announcing it or admitting it but DECLARING IT! All the headlines for business look so awful during the Covid-19 crisis. Companies collapsing into administration; businesses closing their doors; dreams broken into tiny pieces. Maybe there is another side to all this. Maybe people are sick of fighting and maybe declaring is actually a relief. Bankruptcy is never fun. I just hope that for everyone fighting, those that do declare discover a future better than they ever imagined.

Fieldworkers are...


...people that do fieldwork. It does not matter what the subject is. It could be with high net worth individuals regarding their future car buying intentions. Or low-income families about how they manage their household budget. What matters, what makes it fieldwork, is that the person who delivers it engaged the respondent, overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt, and did an interview worth doing. Something good. Something human. Something that will make the world a better place.

Successful Events


You would probably be shocked at the amount of planning and preparation that goes on behind the scenes to make the perfect market research event. Beyond making a list (and checking it twice) it means recruiting respondents, liaising with the venue, lighting, installations, filming, deliveries, catering - depending on the research this list can seem never ending. And you need to have an eye on every single detail so that all the elements are perfect. But above all else you need to create an environment where a respondent can make a powerful exchange with a client. No matter how large the project is, it needs to be intimate enough to generate conversations that matter.

Plan Big


Otherwise why plan at all? And be sure to write down your plans and make them known. Pick out a team of people that can help you deliver the plan. Shake off people that think your plan is stupid. They will not support your plan so you may as well ignore them. You know that if you make a big plan the chances are something will happen. Are you doubting that you can do any of what you do? Good. Then make the big plan.

The Troubled Track


If, in the work you do, there are people out there that cost less than you and are offering a product or service that is a reasonable comparison for your work then you are probably not going to get the work you want because you are, on balance, not worth it. And then you end up having to chase the cheaper prices which we all know is ultimately a race to the bottom. So how about instead of being cheaper you become incomparable, crucial, and invaluable? Obviously that's the troubled track to take because it means you have to become really, really good at what you do, you must totally specialise, be a risk taker, create brilliant art, deliver the science, make sure that everything you do leaves a positive impact on everyone you touch. It is either that or be cheap. I think I prefer the troubled track.

For Our Best Clients


What do we do with the people we love the most? We share. We share our lives, we share our thoughts, we share our time, we even share our food and drink! So here is a treat that I am sharing with you. If you haven't read it yet and are looking for a good book to get stuck into I strongly suggest you get a copy of Humankind - A Hopeful History by the Dutch historian by Rutger Bregman. It is a warm hearted and much needed optimistic read, building on the "radical" view that most of us are decent and friendly creatures. I don't buy into all of Bregman's arguments but I do buy into his belief that human kindness lights the path to a brighter future. I highly recommend it!

The Constant Gardener


I have been thinking about how a garden is like a life. You have a garden and it is yours to tend and garden and weed and live with. You can plant bad thoughts or a sow good sense of humour. And it is up to you to weed areas and to douse parts of your plot with Miracle Grow. Feel free to fertilise and nurture the thoughts and feelings that you want to grow in your garden. It is probably worth putting up a decent fence, to protect your garden, but I would not advise putting up a wall. Get a gate and decide who can come into your garden. Watching out for invasive species – make sure you keep the grass cut, the weeds at bay, and pick up any dog poop if you have a dog, so that you get the garden you want. Refuse to accept that a good garden is an accident of birth or an unchangeable constant.

Keep Playing


Some prize winners keep playing the lottery, even after they have won the jackpot. So that means they are not playing for the win, because they have already won millions. So why are they playing? We all know that in terms of practical mathematics, our chances of winning the lottery is so vanishingly small it is as if, from an investment point of view, there are no winners at all. So that means that we should play the game for the thrill of playing it, for the benefits of playing it to a conclusion, not because we think we have any shot of winning the grand prize, right? Now let us apply that thinking to our everyday lives. Let us focus on what it means to enjoy the thrill of doing the market research fieldwork we get to do every day and taking each project through to its perfect conclusion.

This Commands Respect


There are a number of Indiefield staff who have been here more or less since we founded the company over 20 years ago. As time goes by you do not just come to trust valued colleagues like these, they also earn your respect. Once you come to know someone's sensibilities and ambitions, you naturally start to see the world through their eyes and to support their motives and tactics. Once you have seen how they handle market research fieldwork when under pressure and how they take care of business in quieter moments, you get a true sense of what they believe in. In a world of quick quantitative projects and short qualitative engagements, this sort of relationship is utterly priceless. It is so easy to start relationships that have the potential to turn into ones exactly like these. But it remains as hard as it has ever been to make them last.

Fieldwork Placebos?


A study has shown that placebos work even when the patient is told that the drug they are taking has no 'real' medicine in it. Yes, you read that correctly. We know that the placebo effect is real. If we believe we are going to get better, perform better, recruit the focus group, deliver the fieldwork etc., we do. So then why do known placebos work? Because of the process. The steps we go through to remember to take them, then to actually take them, then to stick to the dosing. Over time, we do not think about the placebo itself, we tell ourselves (a lot) that we are taking significant action. It is the same with market research fieldwork. Sometimes it looks like the odds are stacked against us. But we stick to the process and grind through the steps, over and over again. And you know what? We get better.

What's It For?


Market research fieldwork for what? How do we know what the client is ultimately aiming for? It starts with understanding the use case. And before we can do that, we need to have all the information from our client to work out what would delight them. At that point, the only question is, "does this market research fieldwork support the use case we agreed on?" Too often, we are in such a hurry to show off our recruiting and interviewing skills that we forget to address the notion of what we do it for, and what the use case is.

I Need More Time


You do not need more time to deliver that market research project. You just need to decide who you will work with and what the fieldwork process will look like. That means being accountable for the project which means making good decisions (with a sense of urgency) about who is going to conduct your fieldwork and recruitment. Always look for the company that will step up and take responsibility so that the things you need get delivered.



Being described as "a self-sufficient" appears to be a worthy goal, but is it really possible if you want to actually get anything done? In market research fieldwork all our productivity, leverage and insight comes from being part of something, not apart from it. We rely on respondents to take part in our research, on our panelists to engage, on our recruiters and interviewers to interrupt. The goal now is to work out who and what our dependencies will be so that our clients can depend on us.



There has always been a bright light around the craftsperson. Someone who takes real care and produces work for the ages. Everyone else might be a hack, or a guru, but a craftsperson was someone we could respect. Perhaps we are entering a new age of craftsmanship. A craftsperson might be particularly talented in the way he or she delivers market research projects. Just because it is not in a craft fair doesn't mean it didn't demand craft.

The Best Client


What do most businesses do with their best clients? If you define "best client" as the client who pays you the most, then you take their money. But what if you define "best client" as the person who brings you new clients through frequent referrals? That client, I think, is worth far more than what any one transaction can bring. In fact, if you think of that client as your best advertisement instead, it changes everything.

Protect the Work


One of the things that we always think about is how our role as market research project managers is to "protect the work". To make sure that our clients get the best respondents. To make sure that our clients meet their deadlines. To make sure that our clients can deliver great market research. Our job is to keep the project moving and the choices open so that our client can do his or her work. We protect the project so that our clients can deliver it.