Tips for choosing a market research agency

A market research agency specialises in designing, analysing and interpreting market research on your behalf, helping you to understand your customers and ultimately make better business decisions. Gathering customer insight and feedback requires a great deal of experience and ‘know-how’, and a professional research company will ensure that you get the best possible insights and make the right strategic decisions.

Where to start finding a market research agency

You have possibly come to this webpage through Google – and that’s a great place to start! But how do you know who is the right agency for you? The UK’s top market research agencies are governed by the UK Market Research Society to ensure the highest possible standard through their code of conduct. Not all research agencies adhere to professional research standards, so we would recommend that any company that you choose is a MRS Company Partner and member of the Market Research Society.

Three other useful organisations are; the Association of Qualitative Research (AQR), Business Intelligence Group (BIG) and the Independent Consultants Group (ICG) – although they do not govern research standards.  Also, look out to see if they are an Award Winner – this is likely to demonstrate their passion for research, professionalism and commitment to their research or the services they provide.

What types of Market Research Agency are there?

There is a wide range of market research companies UK and internationally. There are many ways of categorising research firms, as most will tend to specialise in different industries and sectors, including; food and beverages, fashion, entertainment, financial services, business services, politics, housing, travel & tourism and many more. If an agency has experience of your market, then this should at least mean they have a head-start on a market research agency that doesn’t.

Alternatively, some market research agencies specialise in particular types of research, such as; Business and B2B research, Consumer, Qualitative Research and Focus Groups, Online surveys, Advertising, Eye-tracking, Customer Satisfaction online surveys etc. So make sure they have the right skills set or experience for you to deliver the research you need.

Market research companies do things professionally and so they don’t come cheap typically research projects will start from around £3,000 up to £20,0000 or more. If you are looking for low-cost research solution, then we would suggest you use a research ‘Omnibus’ agency – where the survey questionnaire and survey costs are shared with others. However, for business-to-business research we recommend telephone interviewing as response rates to online are very low and the quality of respondents is sometimes questionable.

Finding the right market research agency for you

Before you commission any market research agency to help you, make sure you are clear of your own particular business and research needs and write a market research brief. A research brief should explain your background and business objectives, target market, and an indication of budget and what you want to achieve through the research. You can download our briefing document from this website.

Also, look for agencies that are fairly local – there’s little point working with research agencies if they can’t service you properly and provide you with local support. However, sometimes it is worth going further afield for an agency with the right skill set and experience. Research is a ‘people’ business and the quality of your market research project is largely driven by the skills and experience of the people who manage your project. Both medium and large research companies are likely to have the skills, experience and resources that smaller independent research consultants cannot match but they may not have an experienced head leading the project.

Do not fall into the trap of comparing different market research agencies on the basis of cost alone. The lowest cost may mean they may be cutting corners. For example, lower costs can mean smaller sample sizes, poor quality of respondents, thoughtless questionnaire design or a lack of experience.  Instead, you should choose an agency that understands what you need to know and has demonstrated that they know how to get the best insights and information you need.

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