There you are, sitting comfortably in your office sneaking peaks at your Facebook feed hoping to find something non-political, when you get that urgent email requesting a research study. Your company is about to initiate a new product launch and the team has a ton of questions: Who do we target? What marketing messaging cuts through the clutter to best deliver our unique voice? How do customers describe and view this new product? Time to find the right vendor for this study and fast!
This study calls for an outside research partner (or vendor, or expert, or consultant, or..), but what’s the best approach to finding the right one? Research, as I’ve mentioned many times before is expensive! Skipping research is expensive and doing bad research is even more expensive!! Finding the right partner (yeah, I keep using that word don’t I?) is challenging in todays complicated market where everyone promises everything to everyone in every sector across every methodology.
First off, your vendor can’t be the best at everything. My firm isn’t, our competition isn’t. Each does different tasks or functions great. The key is to find someone that can be honest, open, trustworthy, and tell you straight up that they can or can’t help. Believe me, as a research vendor, I need your business and want you to hire me, but if I don’t fit the gig I won’t take the gig. It’s just bad business. What I will do is point you to others I know that excel at what you’re asking me for. Do I stay involved on the advisory side, maybe, that’s your call, but taking a gig and figuring it out as I go doesn’t work for me. Again, it’s just too expensive and has too much riding on it to wing it.
When I was a corporate researcher I worked with a variety of research vendors – depending on who fit my needs. None of them fit all of the studies I was doing, so I used a mix and selected them based on skillset, style, and fit. A rare few went with the over promise under delivery theory – let’s just say these were one off projects for them and I cut them loose as fast as possible. Others, worked with me to fully understand my needs, collaborated on the approach, and delivered what they promised when they promised it. These vendors became partners for me and my research team and therefore were my go-to resource. Sometimes, we’d call each other just to ask a question on approaching a new study – yeah, we both called each other seeking input as partners – crazy right?
Ok, so, you have this gig coming up and you need to find a vendor. Here’s some of what I do to get started:
- Find a partner agency or consultant while avoiding order takers: I’m not placing an order at the deli counter, I want someone that rolls their sleeves up and works with me to best understand the scope, timeframe, budget, and deliverables of the study I am launching. Yes, I’m the boss, but I want a team player to help me. Challenge me? Ask me questions? Show me that you’re thinking about my research needs. I want that expert on my team.
- Make sure you’re talking to the person that will be working on your study. If I invest my time talking to you about my needs, don’t hand my project off to a junior to run with it. They can help you, but you are my partner and I’m fine with you getting some help, but you are my lead and I expect you to work with me now.
- Skill can often trump industry expertise. Now this one I know some of you will strongly disagree with, but I feel if you’re a great researcher you can work across industries. Now don’t get me wrong, industry expertise can be very helpful, but it’s not going to stop me from working with you. Running a focus group or crafting a survey is the very similar regardless of industry. Want to know buzz words and lingo, I’ll teach you and introduce you to this thing called Google.
- IF you can, get referrals from others. Rather than blindly finding a researcher online (even in the quality Quirks or QRCA directories), a warm lead to a resource is preferred.
- Set your budget and don’t forget your budget. Make sure that you and your vendor fully comprehend the budget. Have I mentioned that research is expensive? It is, make sure that there are no surprises. Manage your study and your vendor and be extremely wary of scope creep. The consultant that starts to upsell you before they deliver on the first gig is trouble – run, away, fast!
Easiest option is just to call us, but, since I’m sharing not selling, If you want to talk through research just reach out, happy to provide guidance and collaborate with no strings Partner!.