Helpful hints on how to appoint a research agency
Take your pick! There are hundreds of agencies and consultancies in the market research industry and each with their own specialist areas.
Many agencies, both large and small, have directors and executives who are members of the Market Research Society.
Members abide by the Society's Professional Code of Conduct, which lays down rules and good practice with regards to their responsibilities to clients (confidentiality), respondents (anonymity), the public as a whole and to each other.
Choosing the right agency is critical. It goes without speaking that the cheapest may not necessarily be the best. It is possible to buy 'research' cheaply, but you need to know exactly what you are doing, and to monitor and check quality standards at each stage.
A reputable agency will:
- advise you on the best, and most cost-effective, way of researching your target audience
- endeavour to understand your objectives thoroughly
- discuss the pros and cons of different research options
- design and write questions
- achieve a robust and representative sample
- undertake the fieldwork with strict quality controls and checks
- analyse the results
- report back to you the main findings in whatever way you'd prefer
- discuss with you, in person, the implication for your business
The more experienced the researchers working on the project, the more likely you are to obtain useful, reliable and actionable results.
Although this might cost more than a basic service, the value to your organisation of having experts supporting the research at each stage, will pay off.
Communication is key in the client –agency relationship. It’s imperative they understand your needs so they can deliver the research you need. If you have concerns at any step of the way, voice them so they can be addressed.
Do your research. Ask around colleagues in the industry for their recommendation and advice. Don’t go on an agency’s reputation alone.
The British Market Research Association website lists member agencies with their specialist areas to help you make the right choice for the planned project.
If looking for a new agency to pitch for business try not to approach more than three or four with a particular brief – it cuts back on unnecessary work and time.
Some small agencies will be very good in their niche areas. They may not, however, have the breadth of experience or depth of resources of larger agencies nor as many experts with different skills in different sectors. Determine the job that needs to be done within your budget and use your own judgement.
A written research brief for the agency to respond to is vital. Give as much detail as possible including who you see as the target audience, and the kinds of questions and issues that ought to be addressed, and why.
Specify the deliverables expected, but do not over-demand. Be focused on the job in hand to keep costs and time down. Other research on other issues can be carried out at a later date.
Provide the agency with a rough indication of the budget available to achieve best value for money and determine what can realistically be achieved.
Work openly. Trust and teamwork to achieve the same common goal will pay dividends.
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