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How To Choose A Market Research Firm

With so many market research firms out there, it's difficult to know how to choose one. But finding the firm that fits your specific needs is critical to guaranteeing a return on your investment.

Define your objectives:

The most important aspect of choosing a marketing research firm is defining exactly what you want to know and who you want to know about. Qualified market research firms can help you define your objectives and find the answers you're looking for.

There are six billion people on earth, but no product or service truly has six billion potential consumers. Are you looking for a market research firm to help you identify new markets for an existing product or test the market's receptivity to a new product? Do you need to test a new ad campaign concept aimed at a specific demographic? Do you want insight into a competitor's success?

Some market research firms specialize in specific types of research or insights into certain demographics. Once you've defined your goals, you can probably narrow down your choices among market research firms.

Reputation and Qualifications:

Your next step is to check the qualifications of the market research firms that may meet your needs. As you would with any other vendor, look for a market research firm with a good reputation with its consumers - other businesses like yours. While many market research firms are bound by confidentiality agreements not to disclose the details of previous projects, most will provide a list of recent clients or describe the types of projects they have recently completed. Some offer this information on their websites. When interviewing potential candidates, it's also worthwhile to ask about the firm's years in operation and breadth of experience. The qualifications of the firm's executive team can provide insight into the experience a market research firm brings to the table.

Most qualified market research firms belong to professional associations like the American Marketing Association, Marketing Research Association, and/or Interactive Marketing Research Association. If a firm you're considering isn't a member of one or more of these types of associations, ask them why not.

Once you've eliminated the market research firm around the corner that does not have the expertise you need and the national firm that's beyond your budget, you're ready to ask some very specific questions.

- Who will do the research and what are their qualifications?

- What expertise do you have in the survey methodology (online, mail or phone) for conducting the research?

- How will the results be reported to me?

Some market research firms have experts in research design, statistical analysis and reporting. Others leave much of that work to computer software, or outsource it to third parties. A market research firm with in-house experts may cost more but results that boil down to "what the computer spit out" probably aren't worth even a small investment.

Market research firms that are truly experts in their field can explain their methodology without hiding behind technical jargon or claims of proprietary information.

Results you can use: