Marketing researchers spread thin, data show

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Data indicate a noticeable step-up in the workload for market research pros based at pharmaceutical firms.

The primary research spend managed per full-time employee (FTE) increased significantly the last five years, from below $1 million in 2006 to nearly $1.4 million in 2010, figures from TGaS Advisors show. Data were presented at the Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group Annual National Conference in March.

TGaS does not have a finite or generally accepted opinion about the right workload. It varies depending on the circumstances. But other industry sources say the optimal benchmark for FTE should be between $800,000 and $1 million per head. Why the heavier workloads the last few years? It's more a factor of manufacturers thinning out their ranks than shrinking MR budgets.

“Brand managers' demand for research hasn't really changed—the same issues have to be tracked,” explained TGaS's John Kain, VP, management advisor. “Our hypothesis is that budgets are tightened and headcount is shrunk or allowed to attrition accordingly—and then brand teams come up with funds for necessary research.”

TGaS derives the metric by dividing the total external market research spend per year by the number of FTEs managing those research projects. Calculations have included between eight and 11 benchmarks per year, Kain said.

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