The Research Agency is a company or consulting firm which provides services to business organization or institution in doing the research project or activity.

Some names of famous research agency in the world, according to ESOMAR Global Market Research Report 2019, are:

  • Nielsen
  • Kantar
  • Gartner
  • Ipsos
  • GfK
  • IRI
  • Dynata
  • Westat
  • Intage

These research agencies have been servicing their clients by giving consultation, design, and implementation of the market research according to the needs of client’s business.

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This article will describe some practical tips on how to work with the research agency and to get the optimum result of the research project that you have.

Type of Market Research Agency

There are several type of market research agencies. They can be large companies which operate locally or internationally, while some others can be small companies and serve specific industry or product category.

Usually, these market research agencies are also categorized based on the type of market research service they undertake, such as:

  1. Custom market research agency. These are such agencies which provide customized market research based on client’s need.

Majority of the market research agencies provide customized market research services. The project usually initiated by the clients due to their business needs and/or strategy i.e., product/business development, go-to-market strategy, launching readiness, customer segmentation and targeting, marketing promotion effectiveness, unique selling preposition, etc.

  1. Syndicated market research agency. These are agencies which look at the common market research needs (i.e., regular market tracking or monitoring, company/product ranking, sales tracking, customer satisfaction, etc.) and then prepare the research and report accordingly. These reports are provided for the open market rather than for specific companies.

This kind of service provided by some of market research agencies. The project usually initiated by the research agency due to their expertise in the certain category and industry. The research agency will also invest in building the infrastructure for the data collection.

The syndicated research usually conducted regularly as to tracking the result in each period i.e., in annual basis, or in semesterly, or quarterly or event monthly basis.

On many occasions, the result of a syndicated market research is being used as reference for the respective players in the business category or industry to benchmarking their performance among the other players.

  1. Specialty market research agency. These companies are specialized in providing services for certain industry or product category. Also, they can be specialized in certain type of research (i.e., specialize in qualitative research or quantitative research, specialize in healthcare industry, pharmaceutical industry, oil & gas industry, telecommunication industry, etc.). These agencies usually founded by the experts who have experience in the respective industry.
  2. Online market research agency. Nowadays, the online market research has become a common practice due to the huge number of internet and smartphone users across the world. The online market research has the advantage of the huge coverage, fast result and economical in term of cost wise.

Important Aspects to Work with the Market Research Agency

There are some important aspects that you need to consider before you decide to choose a market research agency which describe as follows:

  1. Decide what you need

First and foremost, you must decide and know clearly what you need. Below are the questions that can help you to know what you need:

  • Formulate the market research brief. This is most important step that you need to prepare for any research project that you plan. Please see my other article entitled How to Formulate a Market Research Brief? which explained about this in details.

After this, then you can review the questions below to define what you need:

  • Do you need full-service project from design, field work, analysis, and reporting?
  • Do you only need field work service?
  • Do you only need consultation service?
  • Do you need syndicated research or customized research?
  1. Bidding process

The bidding process is the crucial process for the selection of the research agency to engage. There are some tips to consider in having an effective bidding process of the research agency:

  • It is very crucial to brief the research agencies. It is strongly recommended to have a written market research brief to be discussed and confirmed. Please also check my other article entitled How to Formulate a Market Research Brief? which describe the important about market research brief to get an effective market research
  • Invite several candidates of research agencies and ask them to present to you, separately, their credentials projects
  • Provide the same market research brief material for all research agencies
  • Ask the research agencies to submit the proposal and set a clear submission deadline
  • Ask for the dummy report or sample of output to be included in the research proposal
  • Review the submitted proposal carefully and check whether all aspects in your research brief are covered in the proposal
  • Please note that in comparing the proposals, we cannot only look at the project cost but most important is looking at their understanding towards the research brief. You cannot rely the bidding process for research agencies only to the procurement team, but it should involve related stakeholders within your organization as the users of the market research report i.e., marketing, R&D or product development, finance, or even the executive level in your company
  1. Work with the selected agency

When you have decided to select the successful candidate of the research agency, there are crucial steps to work on together with the research agency as follows:

  • Discuss on the sampling process. Many clients rely on the sampling process to the research agency, while the sampling process is extremely crucial to get an objective and effective result of a research.

In the sampling process, there is a reference or source to be used which is called a sampling universe or sampling frame. You need to ensure that the universe or sampling frame is proper. The universe or sampling frame should be representing the target customers of your products.

  • Review the draft questionnaire. The research agency will make the draft questionnaire based on the research objective that you have. It is especially important that you review it carefully and do check whether all the points in the research objectives covered by the questionnaire.
  • Do the pilot interview. It is strongly recommended that you ask the research agency to do the pilot interview. This will help to know whether the questionnaire is properly formulated or articulated. In case there is necessary refinement on the questionnaire before it is being distributed to the field team.
  • Joining the interviewer briefing. The research agency will conduct the interviewer briefing. In this briefing the team leader and project manager usually will explain to the field team especially about 2 topics i.e., the recruitment process of the respondent and the questionnaire. It is also recommended for you to join this interviewer briefing session. The benefit of joining this session is you can see the quality of the field team of the research agency and you can help to explain in case they need some clarification about the subjects which are related to the research, for example the specific or technical terminology about your product or product category, about the competitor products or benchmark, etc.
  • Joining the witness session. This is also an important step that you need to involve, it is called witness session. So, in practice you will join some interview sessions together with the interviewer of the research agency and to observe the interview process as a witness. Please note that you should not be recognized by the respondents otherwise their answers potentially will be bias. The benefit of joining the witness session is to observe lively on the implementation of the interviews in the field. In case you found some concerns during this witness session, then you can have the opportunity to discuss it with the project manager from the research agency. The other benefit, usually you will learn a lot from the session by listening to the candid comments of your customers.
  • Check the timeline. Alongside with the research activity being done by the research agency, you need to always check whether the progress of the research agency is still in line with the plan as described in the proposal. This is important to ensure that the project can be finished as per agreed timeline and will not affect your internal plan.
  • Presentation and report. The output of the research activity is the report and presentation. Usually, the report is provided in two version, one is the full report which consist of all details and appendix, and the other one is the summary report which consist of key information and/or findings from the research conducted. What is important to check, whether the result of the research activity can provide what we call the insights or actionable insights.

A good research report should provide a crisp information which is well told/articulated and can comprehensively explain the result without making any unnecessary complication.

Being a client or user, you have the right to ask for a good report as mentioned above from the research agency that work for your project. Sometime, there is research report which presented in statistics rich, but it lost some meaning because the insights are less elaborated and articulated.

So, those are some tips and recommendations on how to work with a research agency. Hopefully, it helps you to get an idea on how to optimize an external resource like the research agency and to get an effective output from any research project that you have.