For a long time, when I met someone new and they asked me what I did for a living, I told them that I was a market research analyst. Nine times out of 10 that would cause their eyes to glaze over and they would immediately change the subject or start looking around the room for someone else to talk to. I can’t blame them. A lot of people don’t know what a research analyst does and, to be honest, it just sort of sounds boring. So lately, when I get that question, I tell them that I’m a marketing consultant. That goes over a lot better. People seem to intuitively understand the concept of a consultant. It just sounds more approachable than “analyst.” It also gets across the fact that a large portion of what we do at RMS, a research supplier in Syracuse, is interacting with clients.

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The truth is, I really have started to think of myself as more of a consultant than anything else. I used to think of a market research analyst who consulted clients. Now I think of myself as a marketing consultant who happens to be well-versed in market research. It might sound like a subtle distinction, but I think it makes a big and positive difference in how I approach the job.

The main benefit of that approach is that it prevents one from adopting the mindset of an order-taker.  It’s easy to fall into the order-taking trap. Order-taking is what happens when you stop thinking about why you are doing a job or how you can add value to it and start viewing it as just another task to check off a list. We all do that sometimes, especially when we’re busy. That’s just human nature. But it’s important to avoid that mindset because it will prevent you from being your best. It’s also pretty much the opposite of what being a consultant is all about.

There are a number of key differences between order-takers and consultants; chief among them is that order-takers are ultimately viewed as commodities while consultants are valued as assets. Nothing is more dangerous in the 21st Century economy than being viewed as a commodity. Basically that means whoever is paying you will always be looking to replace you with a less expensive option, and in the age of automation and off-shoring of labor, there will always be a less expensive option. The key is to become an asset, to add value, and to develop such strong relationships with our clients that they see us as partners. Over the past 11 years, RMS has been able to thrive and grow because we’ve been pretty successful at doing just that. But we can always do a better job and it never hurts to revisit something we do right.

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Here are five basic concepts you need to keep in mind to adopt the consultant mindset:

Step 1: Think like the client.

    • We always need to be thinking like the client. What do they need? What are their challenges? What are their reasons for doing the project that they’ve hired us for? Those are all questions we should ask ourselves and know the answer to every time we work with someone. The answers will vary from division to division, from client to client, and even with the same client at different points in time.  That said, it’s usually safe to assume that a client will value accessibility, communication, flexibility, transparency, credibility and the consultant’s ability to make them look good to other people in their organization.

Step 2: Understand the next steps in the process after your involvement is over.

    • Nobody ever commissions a survey just for the sake of calling people at dinner time, or holds a focus group because they want to watch people sit around a table, or signs on for practice transformation work just because they want to swim in a sea of acronyms and regulations for months.  While those observations seem so obvious as to not bear mentioning, they are truths that we should always keep in mind. When we work on a project, we always need to understand how it fits into the bigger picture. Only by knowing the how we fit into that big picture can we have the perspective we need to give the client what they really need.

Step 3: Remember – Information is good, information plus advice is better.

    • Have you ever noticed when you buy chocolate chips, there’s always a cookie recipe on the bag? In fact if you look at the packages for many food items – soups, canned fruit or vegetables, rice, etc. – you’ll almost always see recipe ideas. Why do they do this? Because they want to give you more reasons to buy their product. They want to integrate their brands into your future plans. We should all take a cue from these packaged food companies. With every client, we should always be recommending ways to implement the information we give them into their overall operations.

Step 4: Don’t just act like an expert, become one.

    • Our clients expect us to be experts in our fields and we should be. We need to always keep up on new developments relevant to our respective divisions and our clients industries. And remember – there’s never a point when you’ll be able to rest on your laurels and stop learning. Change is constant in every field and we need to stay current to remain relevant.

Step 5: Share knowledge as often as you can.

    • As consultants, the main offering that we have to sell is information. Based on that, you might think that the best thing to do would be to never share information with anybody unless they are paying for it. But I believe the opposite is true. I think consultants should constantly be sharing relevant information with clients and perspective clients for free. And of course knowledge sharing doesn’t stop with clients. We should always be sharing information and best practices with each other.

RMS is a consulting firm in Syracuse, NY, that uses market research and insight to make informed business decisions for your company. If you are interested in learning more about Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) in Syracuse, NY, contact our Director of Business Development, Sandy Baker at or by calling (315) 635-9802.