The general consensus, as put forth by a survey from GreenBook, is that market research suppliers are undifferentiated by brand. There is also a pervasive sense that too much supplier marketing focuses on solving the needs of the vendor not of the customer. If clients are finding suppliers undifferentiated and not clearly client focused, then how does a client find and determine what is a quality market research supplier?
Personal referrals, speakers at conferences, social media references and “give-back” or charity events in the industry are the client’s preferred way of finding their quality market research supplier. Cold calls are universally disliked, as are relentless emails and sales approaches at conferences.
Once the vendor gets a meeting how can one prove they are a quality market research supplier?
The Right Questions
In any request for proposal, but particularly the first one with a new client, asking the right questions not only gets you the answers you need but also highlights to the client your knowledge and experience. Questions recommended by the Stevenson Company include: What are your long and short-term objectives? How will you use the results? Who will see the results? Where does this research fit in with your strategy?
Yes, senior staff almost always participates in the initial presentation but is it clearly indicated how much they will participate throughout the project? Yes, it is recognized that much of the trench work is done by more junior staff, but will the client get the expertise of more seasoned employees on their project? Reassuring them and actually providing input from senior staff is essential to be a quality market research supplier.
Have they worked on projects in your category or industry? Do they understand the nuances of business as well as the particularities of your product or service? Can they articulate their skill set as it applies to your research with specific experience without over-offering other client’s confidential information? How big is their staff? How long have they been in business? As Stevenson Company expressed in a blog, Are they working out of their mom’s basement?
As a client, do you enjoy interacting with them? Quality market research suppliers focus on building relationships not just building revenue. They do what is asked and accept responsibilities for mistakes and have the wherewithal to fix them. They add value in unexpected ways, and earn trust (and business!) with each new project. They seek clarity but aren’t “yes men.” They can talk with marketing, insights, engineering and the c-suite intelligently and comfortably.
From the beginning of the conversation a quality market research supplier sticks to a schedule. They are clear about what a viable timeline is and they get it done on that schedule without drama. With a history of successfully meeting timelines, when there is a valid disruption the client and the quality market research supplier can revise a timeline amicably and reasonably.
As Quirks said in their blog on 9 Habits of Great Marketing Research Vendors, “Great vendors don’t talk about job titles, contracts, revenue targets or themselves. They talk about projects, goals, methods and all of the smart ways they can help so that the process is easy, successful and ultimately impressive to clients.”