Be leery if a relationship with your new voice of customer (VoC) market research company or consultant starts with them telling you their whole life and company story. Market research, in essence, is about listening to your customers needs. It's not telling customers how a product or service meets needs before you tell them. Although credentials and experience are important to pass the eye test, as the buyer you should wonder about the authenticity of such a pitch. Experience and relevant credentials are earned with each new relationship, not told. Trust is earned in the trenches, not in a proposal.
A Customer-Centric Approach
If we approached surveys with this "telling" approach our surveys would look something like, "Question 3: Heinz ketchup is the leading ketchup brand in the world, our sales increased over 3% last year, and our product is the choice for chefs and restaurants across America. Do you agree that Heinz ketchup is a ketchup you want on your dinner table? Yes or No." It's the prototypical car salesman showing you the 3 cars that have been sitting on his lot the longest rather than listening to your needs first and showing you the 3 cars that fit those needs.
"This is the car for you" vs. "What are your needs in a car?"
In reality as a market research consultant, the conversation should be directed around listening to the customer's needs from a brand, understanding a customer's decision-making process for choosing condiments, and drivers of customer satisfaction with products. As a market research consultant let your listening skills and your ability to solve problems do the selling for you.
In addition to listening and responding to needs, there are many other attributes that separate the really good consultants from the sub-par ones. Strong market research consultants find ways to tie data together and use business intelligence to pull in findings from other sources. An example would be connecting survey results to your sales database or connecting metrics with another customer profiling source. This type of analysis allows for more robust and reliable findings. This often takes time which is why it is important to know your consultant views your market research engagement as a long-term relationship and not a short-term contract.
Go Above and Beyond
Far too many vendors and reports I have come across over the years stop with data. I've seen the provider prepare a nice (or in many cases ugly) deck slides that have tables, charts, and graphs. The entire report is page 1 (question 1) through page 26 (question 26) with no narrative, call-out boxes, findings, or recommendations. A good market research consultant knows that the data is just the beginning of the process. The consultant should be able to provide actionable insights, develop strategies, and offer recommendations to improve business operations and revenue opportunities based on the market research. This is what separates Drive Research from our competition.
Follow-up Even When Your Project is Finished
Another key tied to my previous point, a good market research vendor will keep the relationship on-going with a follow-up call or email after some time has passed to check-in on implementation and actionable changes made from the research. It shows they care about you and your business. The market research consultant should be passionate about discussing the results, rather than viewing the additional time and attention as a nuisance. Good research almost always leads to more questions than answers.
Find the Best Methodology, Don't be an Order Taker
A good market research consultant can also walk you through pros and cons to selecting different methodologies of research. He or she knows best practices and can advise you on the best path to take. I say "best" because often there is no "right" path, just a path where the number of benefits outweigh the barriers. Some data is better than no data at all, so budget should never be a barrier to conducting market research. Here are 2 low-cost budget-friendly market research options. A good market research consultant will figure out how to answer your objectives and work to solve your problems instead of telling you 5 reasons why something cannot be done.
Take a Leap
It's cliche but the ability to think outside of the box is key for a market research consultant. A strong consultant will be willing to try new things. The industry is filled with statistical traditionalists who focus on margins of error and random sampling as the only worthwhile form of research. Depending on your study, a 2% margin of error may be required, but in many cases it is not. New age market researchers have adapted and have learned to accept the limitations of email and online surveys with non-representative samples. The industry has been forced to cater to the needs and preferences of the market (mobile) rather than forcing them to adapt to a more archaic approach (phone). Online and mobile surveys offer less expensive research options and quicker turnaround times.
Does your consultant act in your best interest? Ask yourself these questions when you are considering your next market research project. Drive Research is a Voice of Customer Market Research Company in Syracuse, NY. Call us at 315-303-2040 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.