January 22, 2017

When to use a professional market research firm? And what to expect from them?

Professional market research firm

It is good to have professionals help in marketing. But what do you need? Just because they’re there doesn’t mean you have to hire them all. Isolate that area where you need help in, then you can start calling marketing firms for advice.

List down what you need. Sometimes, it’s easier to understand what you need if those needs are written down on paper. There’s no point calling them if you can’t even tell them what you need. And for your audacity to actually call their phone, why, they might just bill you big time.

Besides, if you go to them not knowing what you need, they’ll begin talking to you about this wonderful general marketing package… you get the point. They’re not marketers for nothing.

Useful ideas that can get you started with your list

Focus Groups, as defined by Merriam and Webster, are a small group whose response to something (as a new product or a politician’s image) is studied to determine the response that can be expected from a larger population. In launching, or even testing, of a new product, focus groups could serve as good indicators of how well your product will be received by your target market. Makes you wonder what happened to all those products focus groups didn’t like.

What is important for you to know is that there are different personalities within the focus group. Some of them may be dominant. You, as the facilitator, must make sure that you remain in control of the group. If, at any time you lose control, then the session would have been wasted.

If you are not certain of your capabilities in facilitating focus groups, you can call a professional market research firm to take your place on the podium. Make your hired facilitator aware of your goals. Make time to explain things and throw your ideas at the facilitator. He, or she, can also share ideas. More likely than not, your facilitator will have more ideas in presenting yourself and your product to the focus group.

Questionnaires are what you normally use for hand-outs, electronic forms, e-mail and phone surveys. Yet another list of things you would need to write down. For the questionnaire itself, you must ensure that it is very presentable. The questionnaire has your company’s name on it. Quality control for your questionnaires must follow strict guidelines.

The requirements would differ from hand-outs, to emails, to online forms and phone surveys; but there is one thing that will remain the same; the text. You don’t want to present your company as a comedy of errors. Make sure the text in the questionnaire is well written and easy to understand. Visual questionnaires must be pleasing to the eye.

Before painting the world blue and red, determine your target market. What colors would your target market most likely appreciate? Moving on, don’t just lump several “designs” together on the paper just because you like them. People can tell whether a flyer was hacked together by an amateur, or designed by a professional.

Finally, don’t forget your real purpose. You are doing this, first of all, to gather customer data, and second, promote your company. Remember the carrot. Try to attach a prize or a chance to win a prize. People lose all sense of humanity when they hear the word free. It’s advisable to explain the reason for the survey.

In other words, lie! Just say something sweet like we value our customers so much, we decided to do a raffle. Just fill in the required information… or something to that effect. If, at this point, you are still unsure of what to do, hire someone who has previous experience in formulating and designing questionnaires. Such people will definitely be a part of a professional market research firm.

Phone surveys are a more direct approach to questionnaires. Here, you actually talk to your customers. Don’t do that, by the way. You’ll hear a lot of complaints. People think they know better than you. I know I do. Hire a professional market research firm specializing in phone surveys. This way, the surveyors can hide the fact that the survey is being done by your company.

They can say, we were asked by B company (your fictional rival) to survey A company (this is you). Comparisons are a good way to find out how your product stacks up against your rival product. Also, people would be willing to talk more about your company because it isn’t your survey. Ever hear of the anecdote about eavesdropping and gossip? With this system, you get to hear the cold, hard truth, according to your customers’ view of the way things are.

Now you can figure out what you or your employees can do, and identify those areas where you think you will be needing help with. If you have some contacts in the industry so much the better. You’d probably be a member of a business association in your locality. Try to have them cough up some gems from their own experiences.

  • Did they hire a professional market research firm?
  • Who did they hire?
  • What did they do?
  • Was the professional market research firm any good?
  • How much did it cost?
  • What was the length of time they worked on the project?
  • The object of the game here is to get some recommendations.
  • Word of mouth.

If you do decide to hire a professional market research firm, you will most likely need the services of a public relations consultancy, a marketing and advertising company, and a research firm. All these companies are tied to marketing, one way or the other.

What will most likely happen is that they would have worked with other firms before and, would likely recommend the services of said firm to help you. Sometimes this is good, because it is done in good faith. Most of the time, it’s because of commissions. Never accept a recommendation outright, else you might find yourself paying double (in the form of said commissions).

But, paying more is sometimes better. If all these groups are comfortable working together and very familiar with each other’s business practices, why not? You do need a good team working for you.

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About Hitesh Bhasin

I love writing about marketing and advertising. Would you like to ask me a question? Kindly send your queries and feedback via this Forum. You can also get daily marketing updates via email. Let's stay in touch :)

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