A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a conference call with a potential new client. At one point, one of the people on the other end of the call said, “Tell us why we should hire RMS over another research vendor?”   

It’s rare that someone states the point so succinctly, but that request cut right to the heart of what people want to know when they hire someone to conduct important market research for them. There are a lot of market research firms to choose from, what makes one better than the other?

Personally, I believe that one of the most important traits a research analyst needs to have is the ability to see beyond the process of research (although they certainly can’t be sloppy or neglectful in their attention to process or details!) and always be mindful of why the research is being done in the first place. In our office, the mantra has always been “Think like the client.” When we prepare a report, we always try to put ourselves in the place of the people who commissioned it. What do they most want to learn?

Several years ago, as part of a strategic planning retreat, employees at RMS went through the exercise of writing a “30-Second Speech” that summed up what our company was all about.

Now, it’s debatable whether the following is a speech that could be delivered in 30 seconds, and a few of my coworkers joked that it read like something that should have dramatic musical accompaniment. (The file below features my personal choice for background music during a reading.)

Here is the 30-Second Speech that I wrote, which touches on the point from the previous paragraph:

When someone asks me what I do for a living, I tell them this: “People want to know things, and I find the answers for them.”

That might sound overly simplistic, but I think it’s the essence of what RMS does. We are in the answer business.  We may collect and analyze data, but data is not our deliverable. We give our clients information and guidance. Answers.

Organizations have always needed answers to inform their strategies. Everyone needs to know what their customers think of them, whether or not a new initiative is feasible, or about the changing dynamics of their markets.

The means of finding out about those things varies. Right now we use online and telephone surveys, focus groups, online secondary research, and in-depth interviews. Those methodologies all change and evolve, and new methods are added over time. But the one constant will always be the need for people who are able to separate useful information from all the noise, and who have the insight to transform data into answers. That is the value that RMS provides to its clients.  

But all kidding aside, I really do believe that the focus on delivering real world answers rather than just data at the conclusion of a project is what distinguishes a market research firm that is worth hiring.

If you find yourself needing to hire a market research firm or consultant, don’t settle on someone who only seems interested in selling you a process. Ask them how they plan to answer your questions.