7 Components of a Market Research Proposal

components of market research proposalYou can tell a lot about a market research company from its proposal. A market research proposal is the first and most critical step with your project or company of choice. It gives you all of the information you need on the process, approach, and most importantly: the cost.

However, looking between the lines, what does a proposal tell you about the market research company? Here are a few things to consider.

How quickly do they turn it around? This will likely tell you a few things like how fast the company can move and it will show you how much of a priority this project is for them. If they are taking a week or longer to produce a fairly straight-forward or simple proposal, they may not be considering you as a priority client. The industry moves fast. A week is an eternity in business as far as we are concerned.

How clean and crisp does it look? This will likely give you some insight into what their reporting, infographics, and deliverables will look like. A sloppy thrown together proposal is a sign off bad things to come.

How flexible are they? Are they willing to work with you on scope, process, and cost if your budget requires? If they show some flexibility and are willing to make adjustments as part of the proposal process, it's a sign of good things to come. They're like easy to work with and they'll do everything they can for you to meet your goals.

How responsive are they? Do you send an email to them asking them a question about the scope or price and it takes days to get a response? Think of it this way, the service is likely not going to get better once they close the project and have you as a client. The best service you will get from any company is when they are trying to get you to sign the dotted line. Sad but very true.

Before you sign on the dotted line read this post about market research proposals. It will teach you what to look for, what the process looks likes, and key components of a proposal document.

Here are 7 components of a market research proposal. This includes the following topic areas: objectives, approach, design, fieldwork, reporting, timeline, and costs. Not getting the details in all of these areas in your market research proposal? Ask your market research company to clarify.

Looking for assistance in developing something bigger? Here is your ultimate guide to writing a market research RFP.


This is the general recap of key questions that need to be answered in the market research. It should address your expectations, what you want to learn from the market research, and what you plan to do with the results. Here the market research company should communicate how well they listened and understood the key objectives of your project from the prospecting meetings.


In this section of the market research proposal, the firm should outline the approach. This approach should set the table for the methodologies of choice and most importantly, why they are the best options for the client.

Here the proposal may talk about 2 focus groups followed by an online survey. Or possibly in-depth interviews (IDIs) followed by a online survey through email contacts.

Whatever the methodology is, the firm should spend some time discussing the value of each methodology and why it was chosen over other options. For instance, online surveys offer the best ROI for a client. This is because they are cost-effective, offer a quick-turnaround, and capture quality data. This is part of the story we share for our Voice of Customer (VoC) projects.

All great market research companies have a patented process.


Now that the approach is laid out, the market research company should get into the details here. The design phase of the market research proposal outlines the structure of each of the market research instruments. This may include a moderator's guide for a focus group, a survey document for an online survey, or an interview guide for an IDI.

This should explain some of the questions the market research company is considering asking, how long the survey or interview will take, what populations the market research will be targeting and so on. If they are proposing focus groups, the proposal will discuss location of the groups, honorariums, recruitment methods and so on.

This is the crux of the market research. The detail is in the design and it's where the market research company can really shine. This is where they can show their expertise and experience. This is where the pretenders are separated from the contenders.


During the fieldwork section of the proposal, this is where you'll read about the number of groups, number of survey completes, or number of interviews. You may also learn about how the firm proposes cutting the audiences or creating quotas. Here they may also share how the project will start with a soft-launch before fully launching fieldwork. In this section we also share with clients that they'll receive a live data link which they can access 24/7 with a passcode. This gives our clients up-to-the-second data when their project is active.

Fieldwork should address targeted markets, demographics, and quotas for your study.


Another key section of the market research proposal. This is where you will read about the analysis and reporting plans of the market research company. It should give you a mental picture of how the report will be structured. This would include things like an executive summary, recommendations, infographic, customer persona, and an appendix of question-by-question results.

Depending on the complexity of the project, the market research company should also touch on some advanced analytics such as TURF, regression, correlation, or any other non-traditional form of analysis and reporting.


In one of the final sections of the market research proposal, the market research firm should highlight the timeline. This not only includes a total start to finish estimate in weeks (or months) but a breakdown of each section. We often find gantt charts work very well for these timelines. The breakdown here should include kickoff, set up, design, fieldwork, and reporting.


Lastly, the document must highlight the expenses. This total cost is often what our clients (and any human being) wants to jump to first. We typically either include this on the cover page or at least in the email sent to the client. The cost should give some details on how it came to be (e.g., based on hourly rates and time expected to complete each task). It should also talk about the hard pass-through costs such as incentives or rentals of panels.

Contact Drive Research

Drive Research is a market research company in Syracuse, NY. Interested in receiving a market research proposal from our team? Reach out to us through phone or email.

Call us at 315-303-2040 or through email at info@driveresearch.com.

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