If you engage with a market research agency to do a study for your company, you get lots of benefits. Access to research experts. Learnings from their extensive experience with similar studies. Confidence that professionals with appropriate skills and credentials are working on your behalf.
But working with any type of consulting agency requires some level of project management on your part. There are many risks when conducting market research; know them to mitigate them.
There are several points in a market research project where you, as the client-side manager, need to be particularly cautious. Here are two of the big ones:
- Risk: Ignoring sample quality. If your project is one where the agency is providing sample sources, you need to know what sources and something about their quality. Ask how many sources the agency intends to use, what they are, and their experience with each source’s quality. A professional agency will be able to give you a clear, credible response. If you get a vague, confusing response, beware.
- Risk: Not previewing final deliverables. Ah the big day! The research agency is sending a sharp, knowledgeable professional to present your findings. The mistake? Not looking at their presentation at least 3 or 4 business days ahead of time. It is totally appropriate for you to have a chance to preview and approve the presentation. Don’t do it and you risk these very real scenarios:
- The presentation includes some conclusions that your colleagues, as experts in their market, know can’t possibly be correct. There goes the entire project’s credibility, all because of 1 or 2 poor slides.
- The presentation uses language that you just know will antagonize people. I am not saying you hide bad results; I am saying that you know your company culture and know how to present “bad news” in a productive way.
- The slides contain obvious errors. Alas, it happens. The agency was swamped with deadlines the week your report was due, and insufficient time was spent checking your slides. I know a research director from a Fortune 500 firm who bumped into a presenter in the parking lot 30 minutes before an executive-presentation; the speaker was still creating slides in the rental car!