Many clients have their own market research department in-house, while others have gone through the process of selecting a market research supplier.  Depending on whether you are looking for a long-term retainer firm who works as your consultant or a short-term one project supplier, the process is usually the same.  You have to select a vendor that fits your needs and the supplier has to feel they can meet your expectations.  No matter the scale of the research at hand, providing the potential market research vendor with as much information as possible will help both sides throughout. 

Here are 5 simple tips for businesses that are in the process of selecting a market research vendor:

1)      Provide background information on your company.

 With the sheer amount of information available nowadays through Google, this has become a much easier task for suppliers to learn about their current and potential clients.  In addition to company websites, there is an endless amount of information out there to be accessed.  Suppliers can use them as a good base and starting point, but any other information pertinent to the market research should be provided by the client to fill in the gaps.  The same can be said for the market research firm; obviously your potential client would like to get to know you better, too.

 2)     Describe your needs for and from the market research.

 This is the key to the whole process and aligns expectations between client and vendor.  Set up an in-person meeting or a conference call to discuss (in detail) your reason for commissioning market research and also what you’d like to use the information for.  There is a major difference there.  Conveying “uses” for the data is the key to helping the supplier ask the right survey questions, design the best moderator’s guide or utilize the proper analysis technique.  Some examples of actionable needs would be:

  • “We want to use the customer satisfaction research feedback to improve our follow-up from our reps; we hear that once the sale is made, they do not follow-up properly.”
  • “From the survey, I’d like some employee feedback on the recent merger with XYZ Company; we want to see what types of adjustments need to be made to make the transition smoother.”

These are actionable items that the market research supplier will address in the survey to provide the client with the information they need to make decisions.  There is a major difference between the two quotes above versus simply saying “we want to do a customer satisfaction survey” or “we want to do an employee survey.”  Always ask “why” (serves as a nice survey tip, too!)

 3)     Give us the details about your product(s) or service(s).

 This goes hand-in-hand with #1.  The more information we have about the type of product or service we are researching, the more the market research firm can be on the same page as the respondent when survey questions are asked.  Point us in the direction so we can get up to speed with what you do, and it will pay off.  We researchers love information and statistics; it’s what we do – so the more, the better.

 4)     Tell us about your past marketing plans and where you are headed.

 Marketing research provides you with relevant information to help inform your strategic decisions, much of the time, specific to your marketing strategies.  We want to know what you’ve done in the past – what worked and didn’t work.  We also want to know where you would like to go.  There are a lot of different studies we can use to answer your questions, but helping your supplier understand specific marketing initiatives that you’ve undertaken will tell us whether you should be doing an image and awareness study, an attitude and usage study, or a needs assessment.  Each focuses on collecting different types of data for your marketing plans.  In addition, any past market research you’ve done would (of course) be helpful, too.

 5)     Estimate the range of your budget.

This is by far one of the most difficult aspects of proposal writing in market research (and arguably the most important).  Understandably, many businesses either say they do not have a budget for market research or they simply do not want to give away this vital information because they feel as though the vendor will max out the price of the project.  Comfort and trust in your vendor here is key – something that RMS builds with each of our clients from the get go.  Knowing a range of a budget helps us customize a project, which will give you the best results within your resources.  Meaning, in a perfect world, we’d love to recommend a 2,000 complete telephone survey, apportioning 400 completes at each of your five store locations.  But, if your budget can only afford half of that, we can adjust the quotas as necessary at each store, look to change methodologies, or simply focus on one or two stores at a time (not all five).  It impacts everything.  Understanding budget implications from the beginning puts both the client and the vendor on the same page.  Once that budget hurdle is on the table, it allows the relationship to focus on quality of the process, rather than the price tag of the process.  If you aren’t able to do so, like we said, it’s understandable; we can work with you to adjust and tweak our proposal as necessary.

 These five areas are something that clients experience all the time when selecting and working with a market research vendor for the first time.  RMS is fortunate to have built first-time relationships into long-term relationships with our client base.  It has allowed our team to truly understand the inner workings of our client’s operations and consult with them to solve their problems through market research.  Keep these five things in mind the next time you start looking or start working with a market research vendor.

 This blog post is based on an excerpt from Market Research Made Easy; Doman, Doman, and Dennison; 2006.