Some market research firms fall into the trap of commoditization. Marketing research firms are often hired to execute a specific project with a starting and ending point. As a result, the business relationship stays within those lines, following the contract. The client doesn't ask for anything more, and the firm doesn't deliver anything more than asked for. Unfortunately, if your market research company abides by these rules it will ultimately result in you shopping for competitive firms who can do the same work cheaper next time. If your marketing research consultant serves canned goods, you'll shop for a cheaper can that is just as good next time around.
Good marketing research firms understand the value they provide must extend far beyond the piece of paper signed. They find ways to build a relationship and separate themselves from the commodity business model of price and other textbook buying criteria. As a result, this customer-centric service model results in building long-term relationships between parties that continually drive the research to higher levels of insight.
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Do you engage with a market research company currently or have in the past, here are some questions you should be asking yourself:
Are you learning anything about market research, Voice of Customer (VoC), or Customer Experience (CX?)
Your marketing research advisor should work with you to help you understand why they ask the questions they do, how to ask them, and what the outcomes might dictate. You should learn about the set up and science that goes into a project. Clearly defined objectives equals clearly defined outcomes. Reaching out to customers and asking for feedback is authentic. It echoes far beyond the platform where the survey lives. The practice of listening to customers is something that should be supported throughout your organization. If the firm you are working with is truly passionate about this, it's easy to tell. This will echo into management, operations, marketing and HR. CX is a culture movement, not a one-and-done project.
Are you paying for quality data?
You would think this is a given but some market research firms employ the "what you don't know won't hurt you" strategy. Very dangerous and undermining. The findings and strategy you develop from your research is only as good as the respondents that participate. If you have reasons to mistrust your current vendor, ask to take a look under the hood (request recordings, ask to do a live sit-in on calls, ask to review the data file cases.) You might be surprised at the lack of rigor applied to the most important (and unfortunately overlooked) piece of the research. Don't accept that fact that a handful of completes will be sub-par. Make sure your advisor focuses on quality-in and quality-out.
Is your data representative?
This was not an issue in the old days of random sampling by phone when virtually everyone had a landline. In the current world of convenience sampling, online panels, and social media surveys, the importance of representation has either gone unnoticed or overlooked. Businesses want more feedback quicker than ever before. Those who still care about sampling have shifted their attention and focus from before fieldwork to after fieldwork.
Make sure your consultant is taking the quantitative survey information and weighting it accordingly to match your market. The large amounts of feedback you can get from a variety of channels is great, but as a client you need to understand the limitations and how the sample of respondents may bias the findings. If 75% of your completes are customers, yet the market data says only 8% of the DMA is your customer, your market research vendor needs to account for that and not lump all sampling streams into one large lake. It will completely ruin and mislead the results of the study and understate/overstate your awareness, familiarity and other KPIs.
Is context being added to your findings?
The market research report you've been waiting for is finally sent to your inbox. Months of survey design and fieldwork with your research firm is complete. On the way to work you see an email alert on your phone from your vendor with a PDF attachment. You finally get to see what the market thinks of your company. You grab your routine morning coffee, login to your laptop, and open the report. The cover is nice, you skip the background and agenda pages to open directly to the executive summary and theme 1 to read: "64% of the DMA is aware of your company."
That's the first bullet point. Nothing more, Nothing less. So, you immediately wonder, is that good? Is that bad? What's the average? How does your compare to the competition? There are probably hundreds of questions running through your mind at that point. Make sure your marketing research consultant gives you context by comparing your results to past studies, finding some benchmark statistics online, or confidentially referencing where the 64% sits in comparison to his or her past experience in the industry. Data out of context is irrelevant.
Are they providing you suggestions on additional research and insights?
Marketing research often leads to more questions than answers. Your marketing research company should be working with you to not only execute and advise on the current project but talk about VoC as a long-term program. Nothing is more insightful than being able to dig deeper from one project to the next or relate findings from one study to another. Multiple studies help fill in the gaps that might exist in the customer journey. A CX market research company promotes customer-centric strategies.
Are they willing to work with you on strategy and recommendations?
Simply taking numbers and putting them in sentence format is not translating findings into insight. I've seen this far too many times. Lots of research firms claim to go beyond just delivering data. So instead of giving you charts with percentages, they create top boxes or an executive summary that just explains the chart in sentence format. A good market research company will be so ingrained in your business and your operations that he or she is virtually an extension of your team. You can lean on them to understand how data can drive strategy. They can truly tell you the story behind a percentage and carry it through to business impact.
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