Bethan Turner, research manager at Mustard, talks client-agency collaboration.


One of my favourite parts of my job is getting out there and speaking face-to-face with Mustard’s prospective and new clients. Explaining how our research can help them and their businesses, and why we are better than the research agency down the road (as if you didn’t know that already!)

More than anything, clients always seem to buy into our ethic of co-production. Collaboration. Teamwork. Call it whatever you want, it’s the same thing. Us taking advantage of client expertise, and clients taking advantage of ours. Everyone working to their strengths.

To me, this is a given – it’s essential. Like I’ve been told before (even as an inexperienced Research Executive in my first ever debrief), clients have quite often “been working in the industry for 30 years and know more about it and the market than you could ever hope to know”. (How I didn’t crumble under that comment, I’ll never know!).

This particular client was right in one sense. Of course he knew more about the industry. And we know more about ours. With over 25 years behind us as an agency and a combined total of almost 100 years amongst the Directors, we have moderated countless groups, written scores of questionnaires and delivered many debriefs. It’s safe to say we are confident knowing what we’re doing -without ever being complacent of course.

Despite the billions and trillions (estimated figure only) of projects and sectors we have worked in, we will never assume to know the specific subject inside out when starting a new project. We will never pretend to know more than the client. We always insist on a thorough briefing meeting (in person if possible), so that we can get to know a bit more about the project background, as well as the client (the person, the culture and the strategy). Following on from this, we take a collaborative approach to research design, whether it be qualitative, quantitative or something in between.

Don’t get me wrong – we are a fully capable, full service agency. If you want to commission the work and then forget about it until the report or debrief is delivered, then that’s fine – it’s the client’s prerogative. But I believe research is better when clients are as engaged and involved in the entire research process as we are. Together, interrogating how the questionnaires, discussion guides, stimulus and projective techniques will not only answer the research objectives, but deliver against the wider strategy.

This co-production provides us with better input and delivers clients the best outputs. Everyone loves a win-win situation, right?