What should a business expect from a research partner and what questions do they need to ask to guarantee valuable results that will impact the bottom line?
Let’s face it, market research - from traditional surveys to advanced social analytics - has become the central tool organisations use today to understand the preferences and behaviour of their customers and prospects. The impact of researchers’ work can have far reaching implications within an organisation including which products are built, how solutions are messaged, and the steps an organisation may take to blunt competitive moves.
But the visibility of research within an organisation also means research teams and the marketers they’re working with need to ensure they’re delivering real insight and providing answers to pressing business questions.
Many times, organisations will partner with an outside research organisation tasked with guiding marketing and internal research teams. While outside partners can be enormously valuable, what should a business expect from a research partner and what questions do they need to ask to guarantee valuable results that will impact the bottom line?
1. Where do you get research participants, and what steps do you take to make sure they REALLY DO meet my criteria?
With response rates and data quality at an all time low, this is critical. Even the best designed research project is meaningless if the people participating are not relevant to your target audience. A good provider will use trustworthy sources to recruit participants (ones that have been tested time and time again!), and will put significant emphasis on making sure the data/feedback they gather is of the highest quality.
2. Are your surveys optimised for mobile devices?
More than 30% of all surveys are taken on a mobile device, and with certain audiences this number tends to be even higher. If your research provider isn’t addressing this, then you’re potentially missing out on the opinions and perceptions of a huge chunk of the market. Optimising for mobile is about more than just making sure the questions render on a device - it is about limiting survey length, asking the right types of questions and having the technology to make sure the survey-taking experience is engaging and easy.
3. What experience do you have working with other companies in my specific industry?
It’s one thing to be experts in market research methodologies and techniques, but it’s another entirely to be experts in specific industries. Particularly for B2B, the business needs and market dynamics are vastly different across verticals. Brands should work with research providers who understand their unique business, so they can effectively apply their research expertise in ways that will yield actionable insight.
4. What is your typical turnaround time for a project like this, and at what points in the process should I expect to be most involved?
Never give the green light on a research project until you have a clear understanding of the expected timeline. Ask your provider to detail the steps in the process, and explain which parts will require your input and collaboration. Some providers are more hands-on than others and may require more time to refine the research instrument, while other providers may lean more on you and your internal teams to keep things moving forward. Each approach can have its benefits and drawbacks, so be sure to get a clear picture of what to expect so you can choose which route to take.
5. With what types of business questions do you have the most expertise? Can you share examples of how you have addressed my objective for other brands?
Just as you need to make sure your provider has experience working with other companies in your industry, you also need to evaluate whether they have experience addressing similar business objectives. Many objectives are considered staples for researchers - concept testing, message testing and customer satisfaction to name a few - but others, such as market segmentation or product pricing are most effectively executed by a provider who has deep experience designing and analysing those types of research projects. Make sure you ask your provider for specific examples of similar work.
6. How will working with you be different from working with others who provide similar services?
There are thousands of options when it comes to selecting a research provider, ranging from small boutique firms to large global corporations. It can be extremely challenging to determine which one is right for you, especially when they all promise to provide very similar solutions. A good provider will know exactly how they are different from their competitors, and will be ready to explain their specialties and unique differentiators - as well as how those can benefit your company. If they can’t clearly articulate how your working relationship will be unique, then… it probably won’t be.
7. What kind of reporting and analysis is typical on a project? Can I see an example?
Make sure the final research deliverable aligns with your needs. Sometimes all you need is a straight data output so you can roll your sleeves up and crunch the numbers internally, so make sure your provider isn’t charging you for in-depth analysis you may not need. Conversely, most research buyers need a comprehensive report that is more than just a data dump. In those instances, you need to be absolutely certain that your provider is going to deliver a report that not only digs deep into each research metric but also provides a summary of the results with recommendations and implications for your business. Additionally, by seeing a few reporting examples, you can have confidence that you won’t have to completely rework the report before sharing it with a broader internal audience.
While certainly not exhaustive, these fundamental questions should help organisations understand the value an outside research partner can provide, their differentiation and specialties, and help marketing and research teams narrow down a pool of potential partners.
About John Webb
John Webb has more than 20 years of B2B marketing experience, working for well known B2C and B2B brands.
He started as a Senior Brand Manager for HJ Heinz before moving into technology with a role as European Head of Marketing for Yahoo! He then became Global Brand Manager for Eidos, moving on to become European Marketing Director at InfoSpace, UK and Ireland. He then became Marketing Director with THQ, entered the gaming industry as International Marketing Director for Rockstar Games, Marketing Director - Startups, Developers & Investors with Rackspace and more recently European B2B Marketing Director for Samsung.
John specialises in the intersection between B2C and B2B, where the spheres of work and life blend and the expectations of commercial decision makers and buyers are conditioned by their experiences as consumers. His experience across consumer and business focused organisations makes him the perfect speaker to talk about social media marketing and the importance of engagement on professional networks.