How to Write a Market Research RFP?

Looking for tips to write a market research RFP or RFQ? You've come to the right place.

Any RFP process can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task regardless of whether it is written for market research or any number of industries. RFPs involve a lot of time, energy, and information gathering and all of that work comes before you've even started the massive task of reviewing the submissions and selecting a vendor.

Oftentimes it takes days if not weeks to review all of the submissions as a team and find the best market research company who fits your needs. Even more so as the number of submissions increase.

But that's a little down the road for you. Right now, you are either thinking about drafting a market research RFP, have recently started a market research RFP, or you are well into constructing it and you are looking for some tips to improve it. If any or either of these sound like you, continue.

How to Write a Market Research RFP?

Feeling overwhelmed about what to include and not include in your market research RFP or RFQ? It's okay, we'll walk you through all of the core components you'll want to include.


How can this article help you?

This post was designed to walk you through the market research RFP or RFQ process in great detail. I've broken down the core components of a market research RFP into sections. Each section includes and sub-heading and narrative on items you'll want to consider adding to your RFP and more importantly, why you should add it?

It's critical to be as descriptive as possible with your requests and expectations in your RFP. This ensures the bids you receive can be comparable (apples to apples). However there are some areas of the RFP where it may work in your benefit to be flexible and let the market research company decide on a best approach. These more flexible sections are noted.

The end goal with any market research RFP is to ensure you have a clearly defined process to acquire high-quality and credible market research company bids. The RFP process should also help you create a decision matrix which will assist you and your team in the decision. Each component of the RFP should be weighted in importance which can then be scored. So ideally, the RFP will set the table for a well-organized and easier review process in case you receive 5 bids or 45.

Searching for tips to write a better market research RFP or RFQ? Look no further.

Although the RFP process includes a variety of components, these are some of the major categories and areas you'll want to address in your document.

Before we start with specific components of the RFP, let's talk a little bit about market research in general. If you're at the beginning phases of the RFP process,the first question you might have is wondering, "Do I need market research?" If you know you need it, skip down to objectives. If you are wondering about the potential value or ROI of market research, continue.

Do you need market research?

If you are at the point where you are considering an RFP or RFP for your business or organization, you've likely already arrived at this answer already. Market research provides several benefits.

Regardless of the type of project, market research provides managers with the knowledge, power, and confidence they need in their decision-making. Market research produces fact-based and evidence-based decisions to help fuel strategy.

Market research comes in many shapes and sizes. Whether you are looking to conduct a brand equity study, customer satisfaction study, or feasibility study, market research will help you eliminate risk in making the wrong decision or taking the wrong path. Data is power. When collected and used correctly, data can fuel operational, marketing, and strategic initiatives at your company or organization.

So, if you still need convincing and are wondering if you need market research? The answer is most likely yes. All organizations can benefit from it. The ROI of market research is bettering customer relationships, better understanding consumer behavior, understanding the appeal of a new product or service, or quantifying potential success.

Market research is purely objective and uses hundreds and thousands of data points to point your business in the right direction rather than using the opinion of 1 person or a few board members.

Now, let's get started with the core components of a market research RFP.

What are your objectives?

When structuring your market research RFP, you'll want to include your objectives. Be as clear and as specific as possible. Mention why you are requesting market research. Talk about what your expectations from the market research are. Discuss what you'd like as far as data and feedback to drive decision-making.

Perhaps most importantly, write about what you'd like to do with the market research results. The market research results are only as good as what is done with them. Spend some time in your RFP discussing how you'd like the data to guide next steps and action items. Provide specifics on how you'd like the data and market research analysis will help guide initiatives at your company or organization.

The objectives section should be the first part of your RFP and it's arguably the most important. A RFP with clearly and well-defined objectives will retrieve responses from market research firms which are aligned, well-structured, and hit on all of your major goals. Don't leave the market research company guessing on reasons behind the market research or expectations. It creates a lot of apples to oranges proposals because unclear objectives leads to different approaches.

It's important to tell the market research company and bidders what you are aiming for.

Do you want a specific methodology?

The choice is up to you on this. Some organizations will specify a specific methodology or methodologies they'd like the market research companies to bid on (e.g., Wave I of in-depth interviews followed by Wave II of focus groups). Or a qualitative before quantitative approach (e.g., Wave I of focus groups followed by Wave II of an online survey).

If you leave the methodology open for discussion and bid, the market research firms are provide the flexibility to think outside-of-the-box and present you with new perspectives on how to tackle your objectives. This may include a new or revolutionary way of tackling your objectives you had not thought of before. The con of this approach is it make the comparison between firms much more difficult.

Allowing the market research firm to choose the best methodology for your project may result in your bids looking something like this:

  • Firm A presents Wave I of 8 focus groups and Wave II of 800 online survey completes
  • Firm B presents Wave I of 25 in-depth interviews and a Wave II of 400 phone survey completes
  • Firm C presents one wave of 1,500 online survey completes

Can you see how difficult it would be to compare these proposals?

Allowing flexibility in the choice of methodology produces both pros and cons for your company or organization. You can see from the 3 scopes above, making an apples to apples comparison on price and timeline would prove difficult because the scope differs so much.

If you are open to the market research companies suggesting best approaches it could work in your favor because they may be able to present a more cost-effective, quicker, and higher quality approach. For example, let's say you want to conduct market research to understand usage of your current website and how to improve it for the major website redesign overhaul occurring next year. Instead of asking for 6 focus groups in the RFP, you leave the methodology up for choosing.

In this scenario, a market research firm could send in a response which suggests conducting 40 1-on-1 user experience (UX) interviews utilizing screen share technology. This approach would save you $10,000, get you results 3 weeks faster, and the results would incur no group bias. The UX interviews is a methodology you didn't even know was a possibility because your team had tunnel vision on traditional focus groups.

Something to consider.

If you are conducting customer research, what type of information do you have?

In this part of the RFP or RFQ you'll want to talk about your CRM or customer database. What type(s) of data and information do you have on-hand and what type(s) of data don't you have? This makes a difference in scope and bidding for the market research company.

It makes the difference between a 20 question survey and a 40 question survey. Double the amount of questions will likely result in a much higher cost. If your CRM tool has a significant amount of customer data (e.g., age, ZIP code, income, etc.) this will save the market research company from having to ask these questions in the survey. As a result they can structure the cost of the project to be more budget-friendly.

Also, if your company or organization can tie telephone numbers to the participants or addresses, this will help the market research firm understand if email surveys, phone surveys, or mail surveys are an option. It will also help the market research know if reminder phone calls to those who do not respond to the email survey is an option or not.

From a segmentation perspective, it will help the market research company develop quotas and audiences for targeting. Let's say your focus groups want to pinpoint those aged 25 to 34 with children in their household. If you have this data on-hand it will make targeting and recruiting much easier for the market research than if they had to call or email the entire list to screen.

Examples like these are why you should at least touch on the breadth and depth of your database. If the market research company understands these nuisances it will help them more accurately and efficiently bid on your market research RFP. Think about listing the fields of data you have available in-house.

If your company or organization has a strong CRM or customer database it will help save the market research company time and money to target, invite, and qualify participants for the study or studies.

Do you have specific geographies or markets which are most relevant to you?

Understanding where you want to conduct the market research is another key touch-point for your RFP. This is largely true with qualitative market research such as focus groups or in-person in-depth interviews (IDIs). These types of studies incur large travel expenses and can add considerable length to the market research timeline.

If you are a national company with customers than span across the country, are there specific markets you want to research? Why? Do these markets match the demographics of your customers or are you looking for the market research consultant to choose locations for the market research?

If you are looking to test the feasibility of a new product or service, perhaps the market research firm should suggest some of the top test market cities in the United States for you. These test market suggestions could prove useful to your market research for a number of reasons. Test markets are typically isolated, offer affordable media, and the demographics resemble national averages.

The location(s) of market research will play a major role in the scope and cost of the market research. Clearly defining where you want the market research targeted or held will help you receive comparable bids. If you leave this variable open, it could present a wide range of options and costs.

Do you have a specific or aggressive timeframe?

Timing is everything. In your RFP, you'll want to clarify when you need the market research completed by. Does the fieldwork have to be completed by a certain date? Does the analysis and draft report need to be received by a certain date? Does the market research firm need to be on-site to present the findings on a specific date and time when your board is in town?

All of this information will be necessary to include in the RFP.

Timeline will often dictate the scope and methodologies chosen. Ideally, the more data the better. However, if the market research study needs to be fielded and concluded in two-months, perhaps the intended 80 in-person IDIs will need to be limited to 40 IDIs.

Having a handle on these timelines assist the market research firm in planning. If you are planning on the test product launch in 3-months, provide an expected date in the RFP so the market research firm can work its way backwards.

Dates and deadlines for the market research are critical pieces for the RFP. Not only for the RFP submission and acceptance process but also for the study once fielded. Dates add clarity and set expectations.

What type of reporting do you need?

The type of analysis and reporting can have a major impact on cost. Without direction or structure you may get several different levels of analysis in your RFP responses.

Some market research firms may produce a high-level summary document and that's it. Other market research firms may provide you with an executive summary, recommendations, infographics, customer personas, hundreds of pages of banner runs, and a full Excel CSV file. One will charge you a few hundred dollars and the other will charge you thousands of dollars.

If you specify what you are looking for in analysis and reporting it helps the market research company structure and plan for a report. If you are looking for conjoint analysis, a Van Westendorp pricing model, TURF analysis, or regression, it will require some additional time and cost.

Do you have a budget or budget range?

This is an absolutely crucial piece of the market research RFP. It's also understandably difficult for you to formulate because of the unknown. This is particularly true if you have never worked with a market research company before and are unsure on costs.

Defining some of the other categories we've listed in this article should help point you in the right direction of whether you are looking at a $8,000 project or $80,000 project.

The budget will dictate all recommendations and responses in a market research RFP. It will guide methodology, timeline, geographies, analysis, and reporting. No one fact or figure in your RFP process will have more of an impact. This is why it is critical to at least make an estimation or offer a range of your budget. What do you expect to spend?

As difficult as it sounds to list a budget or price range for your market research, it can prove crucial. Market research scope is often dictated by budget. Market research companies want to present your company or organization with as much data as possible within your budget.

Who will be responsible for rewards or incentive payouts for participation?

One item in the RFP process that is often forgotten about but can have a large impact on cost is incentives or rewards. Who will be paying incentives? Do you have an idea of the rewards you want to pay for participation? We suggest including some language on this because companies or organizations often have stipulations on what can or cannot be offered for participation.

Other companies have a stock and inventory of gifts and corporate items which can be given out as a thank you for participation. If you have these types of rewards or an idea on what you'd like to offer participants it will help to clarify this in budget. If you plan on fulfilling these in-house it could save the market research from overbidding on this in their RFP response by a few thousand dollars.

Will you allow bidding vendors to ask questions?

Depending on your timeframe to accept bids, review bids, and make a decision your company or organization will have to determine whether or not you are willing to have an open question and answer period.

Typically how the question and answer period works is you give vendors the opportunity to submit questions to you. Here you will make it clear, no questions can be accepted after this date. Then you give your company or organization a few days to review questions and write answers. These answers are then posted to a public website for all vendors to review regardless of whether they have submitted a question or not.

Those who submitted questions are not singled out or labeled. The question and answer page is the generic questions with generic answers labeled 1 through 45 (or however many questions are received).

You'll likely receive several of the same or similar questions. In these situations for the answer you can write "refer to the answer on Q5".

How Not to Write a Market Research RFP?

If you have 4 minutes, here's a short video on mistakes to avoid when writing a market research RFP. It's also a good laugh if you work on the market research supplier side of the fence. If you're looking for the summary and bullet point list to apply to your own market research RFP process scroll down to the conclusion of this post.

If you're trying to find a worst case scenario for your RFP or RFQ watch this video.

In Conclusion

For a summary, here are the core components and topics to address in your market research RFP. This is the checklist you can take back to your company's or organization's team to guide you in writing your RFP in market research.

  1. Main Objectives
  2. Secondary Objectives
  3. Methodology
  4. Database or CRM Information Available
  5. Geographies or Markets to Target
  6. Timeline for the Market Research
  7. Levels of Analysis and Reporting Needed
  8. Budget or Budget Range
  9. Rewards and Incentives
  10. Question and Answer Deadline
  11. Question and Answer Responses Posted by Date
  12. Number of Vendors Chosen for Follow-up and Dates
  13. Final Decision with 1 Vendor Date

Thank you for reading our post on improving your market research RFP or RFQ. If you liked reading this post and think others can benefit from it like it or share it on social media using the buttons below. Or leave us a comment.


Contact Drive Research, A Market Research Company

Drive Research is a market research company in Syracuse, NY. Our market research clients span across the United States. We work in a variety of industries to help our clients with Voice of Customer (VoC), Customer Experience (CX), online surveys, and qualitative market research projects.

Would you like Drive Research to bid on your RFP or RFQ?

Contact us at 315-303-2040 or send us an email at info@driveresearch.com.

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