The division between big and small agencies has traditionally dictated where the big accounts end up in this sector but if Nunwood Consulting's year is anything to go by, size is no longer an issue. The Leeds firm has proved that a small staff (60) is no barrier to success, making it the winner of Marketing's Market Research Agency of the Year.
Nunwood's growth is evident in its numbers. Projected figures for 2004 give an end-of-year turnover of £5m - a sub-stantial rise on the £3.4m turnover recorded for 2003, which itself was a 36% year-on-year increase.
A look at the client names that Nunwood is attracting shows that its decision to act as consultant as opposed to researcher is shrewd. Account wins for Britvic, involving the creation of a different approach to concept testing within on-trade premises, and more recently a customer satisfaction remit for the Post Office, stand out as significant achievements in Nunwood's year.
L'Oreal hired Nunwood to investigate the cosmetics market to identify the reality of developing a product concept or brand that would target a new market segment.
As with all research agencies, details of a lot of Nunwood's work is covered by confidentiality agreements, but the agency has performed ongoing studies throughout the year that supplement its new business wins. A customer satisfaction study performed by Nunwood for Somerfield has revolutionised the way the supermarket chain uses its internal store and customer satisfaction data.
The reporting provides each store manager with guidance on how best to spend time and resources and has resulted in an increase in customer satisfaction. The on-going project demonstrates a strong use of analytics and combined techniques, and delivers actionable results. The insight has had a direct impact on Somerfield's bottom line.
Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) is another client that has benefited from Nunwood's research. The agency has provided consistent high-level strategic recommendations to HBOS over the past 12 months. One project focused on delivering an innovative mortgage product that would allow customers to pay off their mortgages early. Nunwood's brief was to identify the product features that would fit with people at different stages of their lives so that different messages could be used. It is too early to analyse its success, but HBOS' insight team has commissioned further research.
The diversity of client sectors on Nunwood's books is impressive for a mid-sized agency, proving that its approach is not confined to one sector of business. Clients range from Morphy Richards and Norwich Union through to Tesco.
Agency managing director Clare Bruce believes this variety keeps its employees fresh and inspired. All teams deliver on quantitative, qualitative, statistical and web research. This merged approach, coupled with Nunwood's in-house hot-desk policy, ensures everyone is encouraged to provide input into ongoing projects.
To ensure a successful team, Nunwood has invested in a host of staff motivation programmes such as weekly Indian head massages and reflexology sessions.
Nunwood's reputation among its peers and clients is that of an innovator and it is this standing that Bruce is keen to embrace. She states that the agency's principal challenge is not how to get innovative thoughts into employees' minds, but how to make sure that the agency gets the old ones out of them.
Investment on IT over recent years has seen that part of the business grow astronomically. In its quest to enhance business performance, the company created Knowledge Systems, a revolutionary information management system that centralises business information to empower decision-making and aid profitability. The businesses using the modular web-based information system include Standard Life, Reckitt Benckiser and Warburton.
Nunwood's approach has caught the eye of the industry. The company won the British Market Research Association award for the Best Agency 2004, attracting comment from the judges on its forward-looking approach. In particular, its evident dedication to staff development and strong client relationships was noted.
2003: Incepta Marketing Intelligence
2002: Ipsos UK
This article was first published on Marketing