This concluding article in the marketing research series looks at how to
select a marketing research agency.
MARKETERS who have an informed
awareness about marketing research and the resources to utilise it are in an
enviable position. They have the potential to make use of relevant, timely and
accurate information to make more effective marketing decisions.
To help you better realise that
potential, a useful guide in the research process might be:
Do You Need a
Marketing Research Agency?
Marketers would not dispute the
need to do their homework before they can achieve effective marketing. Most face
the problem of not having the opportunity to conduct marketing research when
they really need it. But before you plunge into the research process with a
third party, you have to decide if it is necessary to do so.
You may not need professional
assistance. If your research needs are simple enough, there could be government
and commercial publications, for example, which would provide the specific
information you require. Or the necessary costs (fee, time, etc) might not
justify the need for professional research assistance because the cost of
getting it wrong is low.
Most of your research needs,
however, would probably have to be left to the professionals as your requirements are probably
too complicated for non-researchers. Invalid research can lead to incorrect
marketing decisions which can be costly
Do You Have the Resources and
If you decide that you need a
research agency, you would need to have enough time and budget. As a rough
guide, you will need at least a few thousand dollars for relatively
uncomplicated research. If the research is straightforward, you may not need an
Without sufficient time, research
cannot be of good quality or even possible. All the money in the world cannot
get you findings that you "needed yesterday". You must be able to give
the selected agency at least a number of weeks, if not months, or be prepared to
pay a premium if the agency has to stretch its resources to meet your tough
What are the Possible Agencies?
Given that you have the resources
and the time, how would you search for the most suitable research agency for
your particular needs? Do you contact the agency whose name somehow rings a bell
or because your company has had previous dealings with them? Perhaps you would
contact a friend or an associate to get the name
of the agencies she knows?
Since your needs and
circumstances might be different or change, it would be better to make a
systematic search for the agency that is best for you even if you are a regular
marketing research user. There is probably no one agency that is suitable for
all your requirements and means; increasing your chances for getting your best
agency for a particular requirement is therefore crucial.
A simple way is to look up the
telephone directory. For example, all the major agencies are listed under
"Market Research and Analysis" in the L-Z volume of the Yellow Pages Commercial
Analysis and Report Preparation
Research Brief: Letting the
Agency Know Your Requirements
To let the agency know your needs, prepare
a one- or two-page research brief. You can conveniently fax your requirements to
the agencies you have shortlisted. Drafting the research brief also helps you to
better focus on your requirements. A typical brief, which need not contain
potentially sensitive information, might have points on:
Background. A brief
account of the circumstances leading to your present need for marketing
Objectives. What you need
Scope. The nature of the
research needed, and
Time Frame. The deadline
by which you need the report and presentation in order to allow sufficient
time to act on the findings.
You should give at least one to
two weeks to allow the agencies to contact you for clarifications and to submit
their research proposals. More time will be needed if you want the agency
representative to meet you before submitting the proposal.
Selecting the Agency That's Right for You
By the time your specified
deadline expires, you should have several proposals to look through. You might select three to five of them after eliminating the
for example, cannot meet your deadline or budgetary constraints.
ff no agency can meet your
resource constraints, then be prepared to have an extra budget to cater for changes in requirements.
Based on the firm's experience
and ability to work within your requirements, you might want to visit the agency
you are about to appoint. It would be helpful to know the research team involved
in addition to the account servicing person you will be dealing with. It is not
uncommon for clients to even request for the research team's curriculum vitae.
Keeping in Touch
with the Research Process
The more you are aware of the
research process, the more likely you will be able to get precisely what you
need. While the agency is obligated to keep you informed of the progress with
data collection, data processing, preparation of the report and presentation,
you should show interest in the progress. Not only will you know if unexpected
things occur, the agency is more likely to be kept on its toes.
The particularly important stage
is during the analysis for the report and the presentation you do not want to be
surprised by the results. Do not, however, overdo it or the research team might
end up spending more time "handling" you than doing the actual
Research Findings to Your Needs
Naturally, you do not want a fancy report and presentation which do not meet
your needs. The findings will have to be easily applied to your requirements.
It is possible that after the
report submission and presentation of findings, you or your management may want
additional analysis of the research data already obtained.
The agency should be prepared to
accede to your request if no major additional work is required. After all, we
are talking about getting the best which is not the same as getting the most out
of the agency
Effectiveness of Research
The result may take time to
realise but you should attempt to systematically assess the effectiveness of
your marketing efforts and the actual contribution made by the research. Such
evaluations will enable you to be a more discerning user of marketing research
to help you be an effective marketing professional.