40 years of Link - a success story

The leading Swiss market and social research company Link celebrates its 40th anniversary. Retrospect, present and future scenario of a success story.

Cuno Pümpin (left), former professor of strategy and marketing at the University of St.Gallen and Benedikt Lüthi, CEO of Link.

40 years ago, Joseph Stofer and Horst Heidemeyer founded Link. They were pioneers from the very beginning: Link was the first market research company in Switzerland to introduce the computer-aided telephone interviewing (CATI) method developed in the USA. Link has always been interested in capturing market sentiments, but also in getting to the bottom of people's needs and habits. The demand from the business community and public institutions for these services was great, as the aim was to better understand the population and draw conclusions from it. The story of the market and social research company Link began as a small start-up, which now employs over 600 people under the leadership of Benedikt Lüthi.

Quality was and is the top priority

Joseph Stofer has long since retired from operational business, but one of Stofer's close companions remembers and has good things to report. Cuno Pümpin, now 82 and still razor-sharp in his analysis, joined Link as a member of the Board of Directors in 2004 when Invision - a company focused on succession solutions for medium-sized companies - took over the majority of the shares. He sums up, "Quality assurance has always been Stofer's top priority." From 2008 to 2009, Link made a massive switch to online, becoming the absolute market leader. "We had over 80 percent market share in the online business, and that made it possible to cut costs without sacrificing quality," Pümpin says proudly. But what exactly does quality mean in this context? Cuno Pümpin's answer comes in a flash. First and foremost, quality means asking the right questions and, of course, ensuring that the customers who commission the surveys are satisfied.

The transformation is progressing

Between the years 2012 and 2014, Link has to make a strategic reorientation, as the market is developing rapidly. The introduction of digital technologies in market research is advancing rapidly, and Link knows that in order to remain at the forefront, it must adapt to market conditions. Just who is going to implement this big task? "We knew it had to be done by someone external. And now Benedikt comes into play," says Cuno Pümpin with a smile, and you can see that the two gentlemen have made hay on the same stage. Benedikt Lüthi is not only interested in driving Link's fortunes forward as CEO, he also has a stake in the company. Lüthi is transforming the entire management team and turning his attention to the market and customers as a whole. Cuno Pümpin and the shareholders support the new crew in the background. Have the customers changed as well? "Yes," says Lüthi, "today our customers often have their own data and sometimes their own tools to better understand their target groups." A lot of data is collected and stored, he says, but often there is a lack of the necessary data structure and the right method to draw the right conclusions from the data at hand; that's where Link wants to help. Lüthi describes it this way: "In addition to pure data collection, our service increasingly consists of directly supporting the customer in analyzing the results. The main fields are: Product development and concept testing, analysis of the customer journey and customer satisfaction, as well as measuring the impact of marketing tools used and the reach achieved. Increasingly, new methods based on artificial intelligence, among others, are being used." Another area, he said, is customer access to real-time analytics. Customers want to be able to call up an interim result at 3 p.m. on Saturdays, when they have time, he says.

LINK has invested seven figures to build a panel that represents the Swiss population. Why? Online research has been the preferred method in marketing research for several years. The Link Online Panel is considered the highest quality panel in Switzerland and is the only one on the market that is representative of the Swiss population. However, Link still operates the CATI data collection, which was initialized by Mr. Stofer and Mr. Heidemeyer, in three national languages (D/F/I). For social research services, mastering both survey methods, online and CATI, is still very important.

Cooperations are the future

LINK is opening up for cooperation. Since there are fields where LINK may not have the technology expertise, the task is to know the market well and get the right cooperation partner on board.

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