Don’t Pick the Wrong Marketing Research Firm!

Often, companies decide to hire a marketing research supplier when they either lack the expertise, time, or personnel to conduct the project internally, or the business problem has serious political consequences within the organization, requiring research to be performed by an objective third-party. Especially in the latter case, hiring the right marketing research vendor is crucial.

Some companies, when having to hire a marketing research firm for the first time, select the first one they find or hear about, whether or not it has expertise in the type of research they need. At the other extreme, some companies that have worked extensively with outside marketing research firms may become “lazy” and select a firm simply out of familiarity, regardless of its experience in the type of research needed.

Another pitfall is hiring a marketing research firm solely on the basis of cost. You get what you pay for. If the amount a supplier bids for your business comes in much lower than most other bids submitted, beware! It’s very likely the scope of the project outlined in that supplier’s proposal is much smaller than in those submitted by other suppliers. The much lower bid can also suggest that that supplier may be inexperienced in the type of research you need. Hiring an inexperienced research supplier can cost you time due to mistakes and rework, and produce results you can’t do anything with.

Some companies also hire a marketing research firm solely on the basis of reputation or size. While all of us would certainly love to have a big name marketing research firm executing our research project, it’s not always practical. These firms will charge a premium because of their specialized expertise. In addition, their large size almost always means more bureaucracy and higher cost structures, and therefore higher fees. And the larger the vendor, the greater likelihood your point of contact will be an account manager, and not the actual researcher. And if they judge the scope of your project to be too small, these firms might actually turn you away.

Selecting the right research vendor for your project
If you have a market monitoring system in place, and you’ve established the need for marketing research and properly defined your business problem, selecting the right research vendor is pretty straightforward. You’ll know at this point the type of research you need, and you’ll be able to shop more intelligently for a research vendor. Quirk’s Marketing Research Review Magazine and the American Marketing Association’s Marketing News each publish directories of various research suppliers and their areas of expertise. Knowing what you need from a vendor, you can call on prospective vendors you find from these sources and solicit bids. Also, reach out to your network and ask for referrals.

Just to clarify, there is absolutely nothing wrong with accepting the lowest bid on a research project, as long as the vendor is experienced in the type of research you need, and the scope the vendor proposes matches that scope you require. After all, why pay extra for additional information you won’t use?

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