Market research vendors and clients should be real partners. The call for actionable insights continues to be a constant in the market research industry. Clients (end-users or corporate researchers) complain that vendors don’t give them what they need to make decisions. Vendors complain that clients often don’t know what they need or want.
There is a disconnect driven by increasingly tight budgets, short-term goals, technology promising the impossible, and skill mismatch.
Corporate Researchers’ Challenges
This is not a new issue. Back in 2010 when I first wrote this article, my colleague Kathryn Korostoff, from Research Rockstar had published, Market Research Departments: The Hero of the Market Research Story in MRA’s Alert! Magazine, calling attention to the issues corporate market researchers were dealing with. Many of these are still in place.
The Lure of “Free”
Internal clients who are reading about “free” market research options, when in reality the phrase “market research” is being used very loosely.
Anybody Can Do It
Proliferating pockets of unsanctioned research, often done by well-meaning but untrained colleagues.
The Lure of Shiny Objects
Internal clients becoming aware of numerous “market research” services and solutions, many of which are at best distractions and at worst disruptive.
Lack of Time or Skills To Evaluate New Methods
Insufficient time or skills to truly assess the options and merits of new research methods.
Unclear Research Policies
Insufficient time, and in some cases authority, to establish and enforce customer research policies (which are of urgent importance because of the unsanctioned research that does take place).
The Dreaded Sales Calls
Increasingly sales-hungry research suppliers, making the risk of answering a phone call almost unbearable.
Lack of Time To Participate
An unmanageable number of market research-related associations, social networking groups, events and interactive “media”—too many to keep up with, too many to ignore.
Undeniably, the proliferation of tools for data collection, visualization, and automation continue to have an impact on the market research industry, not only for corporate research departments but also for research vendors.
Research Vendors’ Challenges
Some of the challenges research vendors include:
Left in the Dark
Clients’ unwillingness to share critical internal information that would allow research vendors to provide the support clients need and reduce their “vendor management” time.
Faster. Cheaper. Preferably Free. Better.
The need to deliver faster and better results on very small budgets. Technology has set very high expectations regarding cost and delivery times leading clients to ignore the cost, experience, and time needed to really think and extract actionable insights. Faster, cheaper, and better is an illusion.
Anybody Can Do It.
Clients with little training in the fundamentals of research. This is also a result of expectations related to automation tools for data analytics and visualization, cheap online survey tools, and information on the Internet.
Cost – Quality Trade-Offs
Clients’ complacency with “good” enough research and willingness to bend rules that impact data quality due to small budgets.
Convincing clients that old established ways (“we have always done it this way”) may not be valid anymore for their current situation. This seems to be in conflict with the lure of shiny objects mentioned above. The fact is that both trends coexist in different groups within organizations.
Keep Up With Trends
Time to keep up with demographic and cultural trends that have an impact on how we design research, collect data and analyze it.
Support Decisions & Communicate Effectively
The ultimate goal of market research is to help make effective business decisions based on data that matter. Both corporate researchers and vendors face this challenge with every project. Both benefit from keeping that in mind.
Furthermore, market researchers need to become better story-tellers to communicate results and impact decision making. This applies to both corporate researchers and research vendors. Executives don’t care about how the research was done, just what the business can do to move forward, based on the research.
However, don’t mistake being a good communicator with not needing good research fundamentals. Like we say about the “H” in Spanish, “the H is mute, but you are not blind,” meaning you still need to write it down wherever it goes.
Let’s Be Real Partners
After working on both sides of the aisle, as a corporate researcher and a market research vendor, I can confidently say that the best approach is collaboration. Clients and research vendors complement each other. We each have something unique to offer. We can be partners.
To clients I propose:
- Share your industry expertise with us, tell us about relevant business issues we need to be aware of in order to serve you better.
- Let vendors provide you with training and bring you expertise, new approaches, and insights when needed.
- Let’s exchange experiences about the use of emerging technologies and knowledge about new consumer, industry and social trends and their application to market research.
- Collaborate with us in testing new approaches and re-evaluate established methods in the light of current market conditions.
- Allow us to lighten your burden and in turn, help us grow and keep our industry moving forward.
If you have other ideas of how clients and research vendors could collaborate to keep the market research community thriving, I welcome your comments.
An earlier version of this article was published on August 26, 2010. The article was last updated and revised on October 30, 2019.)