What To Value In A Market Research Vendor

Summary: Experience, customer service, and empathy from the vendor are key attributes in a market research vendor that can benefit clients the most and help corporate insights groups to do a great job

3 minutes to read. By author Michaela Mora on October 3, 2013
Topics: Business Strategy, Market Research

What To Value In A Market Research Vendor

The RFP process to buy market research services sometimes gives us a glimpse of what different clients value in a market research vendor.

The development of RFPs in our industry has come from the need to control quality and cost through detailed specifications of the mechanics inherent to the process (e.g. design, data collection method, sample size, incidence rates, tabulation format, reporting, etc.). 

The Preferred List

In many large companies, the process starts with an RFP sent to a list of market research vendors that are either part of an official, legally approved “Preferred Vendor List.”

If there is no such an official list, clients still tend to have a short unofficial list based on past work done by a group of vendors.

Once you get used to working with a particular market research vendor, uncertainty about what to expect is minimized and you can focus your attention elsewhere.

This works great if you partner with a market research vendor that can offer expertise and good customer service. 

These market research vendor lists make the selection process easier for clients. Setting up a market research vendor in a company’s system can be a cumbersome process. It may drag for days or weeks if approval from different departments is required (e.g. marketing, procurement, legal, etc.).

Problems With The Preferred List

Although there are obvious advantages of having a preferred vendor list, this also has clear drawbacks. A company may be missing opportunities to do research with better and more innovative research approaches because:

  • Cost constraints imposed by current contracts limits the scope, level of quality, and depth of services.
  • The current market research vendors may not be on top of the latest technological and methodological trends in our field.

Meeting the specs doesn’t guarantee quality. When you get proposals to an RFP with large differences in price, it would serve you well to question the proposals with the highest and the lowest price.

Differences in price from one proposal to another may be due to proposed different data collection methods (e.g. phone vs. online), but assuming the same methodology is used, in the majority of cases, the price is lower because something has been left out /reduced in scope. 

Often you get analysts/programmers/project managers with less experience handling your project, or the whole project has been outsourced to a low-cost labor country. High prices are often tied to high overhead costs or having experienced researchers working on your project, or both.

I have met my share of clients who have never done market research and are really shocked by its cost. Someone even told me “how hard can it be to copy and paste questions in SurveyMonkey.” The easy access to technology gives a false impression that minimal knowledge, if any, is needed to do market research.

I have also met those who know about market research but are so driven by budgets that they select the cheapest proposal to later regret it. Many end up spending more to redo the work.

Again, in our field, standardization doesn’t guarantee quality. During my years working on the client-side I learned that experience, customer service, and empathy from the vendor were the key attributes in a market research vendor that benefited me as a client the most and helped the market research function at my company to do a great job.