What do we love best as market researchers? Great insights! Usually, we’re seeking these outcomes for our clients, but twice a year we get a peek into our own industry with Greenbook’s GRIT (Greenbook Research Industry Trends) Report on the state of the market research industry. The most recently released report focused on important topics such as adoption of emerging methods and technology, trends impacting corporate researchers, and financial forecasting.
One thing that stood out when reviewing the report was that clients are still dissatisfied with the final products they receive from their research teams. While overall clients were satisfied with the way research was conducted, they were dissatisfied with supplier consulting services, such as using insights to advise business actions. After, what good is the data if you don’t know how to use it?
As an industry, it is vital that we address this dissatisfaction. Clients hire market researchers to help them evaluate past business decisions and guide future ones. They have meetings, sift through paperwork, formulate RFPs and run through hoops in order to choose an agency with the right solutions to answer business questions.
From the market research agency perspective, what the client does next will likely determine the success of the project – and the satisfaction levels with the outcomes. Clients must be willing to get involved. A solid, professional research firm won’t need hand-holding about how to ask questions or who to sample. But there’s a lot of value that clients can add; providing that input will help determine the quality and utility of the insights delivered later in the project.
Almost everyone is short on time and overall resources, which is probably why customer insights research is being outsourced in the first place. However, there are still some low-resource ways in which clients can help contribute to a more successful project.
- Consult with the consultants – this can be as simple as answering questions fully and promptly. While a research agency team may be experts when it comes to fielding and analyzing surveys, clients can provide crucial category knowledge to help better craft the survey and deliverables. Letting researchers know hypotheses about the market before analyzation of the data begins will help to improve the quality and specificity of insights.
- Focus on substance, not just logistics – too often, kickoff calls with clients merely focus on issues of scheduling, budgeting and timelines. Teams should work to carve out time when communications provide substantive feedback in addition to logistical coordination. If a client assigns this task to someone internal up front, when the project starts, outcomes will improve dramatically.
- Be the voice of the stakeholder – as researchers, we like to think of ourselves as providing “the voice of the customer” to our clients. Similarly, in project meetings, part of the client role is to clarify not just the goals of the research, but the people and departments that requested it in the first place. The research team needs to know who will use the research and how they will use it.
- Advocate for good research practices – any research team will love its clients if they are willing to give even a small amount of effort to getting internal stakeholders on board with good research practices. Is there a different, better way to get at the needed insights? Don’t be guided by inertia – instead, work together to develop a methodology that can then be promoted to internal teams.
- Push back – market research is a collaborative process and clients must advocate for their needs. Clients know their organization’s goals better than any external consultant or vendor, so they must speak up if things seem like they are going in a direction that won’t clarify the most critical problems or identify the most lucrative opportunities.
Being a good client is not about having a winning personality or the largest research budget. Instead, what researchers want out of their clients is someone who is willing to invest their time in the research project. We want to find the critical answers, and we do this most effectively with a strong understanding of internal workings and the specific audience. This can make a huge difference in getting actionable, high-quality, and relevant insights, and help driver higher levels of client satisfaction in next year’s GRIT report.
Mike Dickerson is New Product Lead at Alter Agents, a research consultancy in Los Angeles. Drawing on a background in qualitative and quantitative sociology research, Mike brings a strong social science perspective to designing and executing market research projects. As a researcher, Mike is passionate about diving into the deep-end of data and digging for undiscovered pearls of wisdom. Mike is also an avid gamer and puzzler.
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