Faced with a variety of business problems and seeking the best methods to solve them, more and more companies decide to conduct marketing research. Clients usually begin by scouring the internet and come across many research agencies offering support in solving business problems and making claims about the efficiency of their research. All websites look professional. So clients often face a dilemma: which research agency to pick and what criteria to follow?

Sometimes, a choice that takes into account only the price factor is not fully satisfactory and useful in terms of business. Usually, it’s the small details that decide the quality of service and satisfaction. Below we present key aspects that you should keep in mind when picking a research agency.

Understanding the business problem

In order for the research to be successful and for the client to receive valuable results and recommendations, the research agency should fully understand the current problems, needs and expectations of the client. But it should also be one step ahead and understand what business decisions can be made based on the study’s findings.

In this case, the client is the best source of information. They know their company inside out. The client should provide researchers with detailed information and help them understand the problem. Meanwhile, the research agency should ask questions and confirm with the client that it properly understands their needs as early as the stage of preparing the research offer.

The more detailed the brief, the greater the likelihood that researchers will prepare an offer that is tailored to the needs of the client. A good practice is to schedule a personal meeting between the agency’s team and the client. It gives an opportunity to discuss all relevant aspects before preparing the offer. This meeting will enable both teams to get to know each other. The agency will present the project team members and explain step by step all the stages of the project. And the client will have time to ask questions that will allow them to better understand the entire research process.

Industry experience

Research agencies differ in many respects. A certain kind of specialisation enforces the number and variety of business problems with which clients come to research agencies. Generally, research firms differ from each other in terms of:

  • experience in specific industries (e.g. on the FMCG, clothing, telecommunications, banking, construction, or medical market),
  • specialisation in specific market research methods (e.g. focus groups, individual in-depth interviews, telephone interviews, central location tests, mystery shopping),
  • experience in research with a particular target group (i.e. B2C or B2B).

Each industry and target group is different. So before making the final decision about the research agency it is advised to ask for examples of past projects in similar areas. Typically, agencies are happy to share their experience in implementing similar projects.

Flexibility and advice in choosing the right methodology

Research agency should be flexible, open minded and creative in selecting a methodology. The team should thoroughly know and understand the client’s needs, and have information on the latest methodological approaches. As they should propose innovative solutions that sometimes combine various methods.

On the other hand, it is also worth for the client to ask questions and ask for clarification when concerns emerge. Experts from a professional research agency will certainly be able to explain and substantively justify their position. And this will allow the client to feel more confident. Experienced and knowledgeable researchers will be able to show the client the benefits stemming from the use of a given methodology.

For example, sometimes it makes more sense to conduct focus groups in a form of an online study, for instance in the case of people associated with IT or with fans of computer games. It is so because they feel more at ease in such an environment than in traditional focus groups. Understanding the broader context and the specifics of the target group, people at the agency will be able to offer solutions best suited to the client’s needs.

Communication between the agency and the client

Good communication at the stage of preparing the offer is imperative. Effective communication from the start will make it possible to better understand key issues and identify the main objectives of the study. Both the client and the agency should designate a person responsible for communication and leading the project. This allows them to clearly define the roles of people involved in the project.

Important elements of such cooperation are personal, regular meetings between the team and the client. They should be organised before each milestone of the project (e.g. designing an interview questionnaire, determining a data analysis plan). A better understanding between the two teams results in more effective and enjoyable cooperation.

During the course of the project, the client and the agency should be partners and actively participate in the project. The style of cooperation should be interactive and make both parties feel involved.

Providing valuable knowledge

The key to success in research is to know the needs of the members of the studied group – needs which they themselves are often unaware of. The task of a good researcher is to find ways to unearth those needs. To achieve this, the researcher must always have an open mind and a fresh perspective, and be close to the target group. This is where the most interesting phenomena occur, ones that the client can later use in, for instance, marketing communication with the group, or the development of their product or brand.

A study should provide valuable and useful information so that the company can better adjust their products or services to meet the needs and expectations of the consumer, which has a direct impact on the financial results of the company.

Undoubtedly, the quality of service and professionalism of the research agency is indicated by whether it is able to design a study that uncovers the studied group’s world and shows phenomena that are happening there – phenomena sometimes not visible at first glance.

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