Agency SelectionBest Practices

Market Research Budget Planning Tip 1: Getting Lower Fees from Your Research Suppliers

[First in a series for market researchers planning their 2011 market research budgets]

Do you have existing research suppliers? Agencies that help you with survey projects, focus groups, community management or other needs?

If so, chances are you spend $100,000 or more per year, perhaps much more, with them.

These days, it’s also likely that your annual research budget has been lowered. Or that you are expected to do more with the same budget. In either case, the name of the game is budget efficiency.

One of the easiest ways to improve budget efficiency is to simply ask your research suppliers: “What options can you offer to reduce our research costs?” Let them know you are open to creative ideas.

A true partner will be open to getting creative on your behalf. Simply by asking them, you are also signaling to them that you are open to change—perhaps new tools or processes that they may have been reluctant to offer up proactively. After all, some of their clients are resistant to change, and they may have assumed this applies as well to you.

What can you expect after you ask for options? Here are a few examples of things you will likely hear:

Reduce data collection costs by building an in-house panel (as opposed to using a 3rd party panel). If you have not done so already, and depending on your market, an in-house panel can reduce data collection costs. Yes, there is an up-front investment to create it, but depending on your population parameters and research frequency, it can pay for itself within a year.

Reduce reporting costs by eschewing slide decks. Market research agencies put a lot of time into creating slide decks (whether though PowerPoint, Keynote or other programs). Online reporting options and chart automation tools can reduce operating costs, though there can be trade-off’s in formatting and customization.

Reduce project management fees by changing to a retainer versus per-project fee structure. Market research suppliers are, after all, consultancies. The more predictable the revenue stream, the more efficiently they operate. Some agencies will offer lower fees if they have a guarantee of consistent work or more of a consultative relationship.

Of course, with change comes risk.  Your provider will likely advise you of the risks associated with the options they offer.

But, hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask, right?  Give your market research suppliers a chance to be creative on your behalf. You just may be pleasantly surprised.

[To learn more about on-site workshops and consulting from Research Rockstar, click here: Info]


Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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1 thought on “Market Research Budget Planning Tip 1: Getting Lower Fees from Your Research Suppliers”

  1. Great idea about building an in house panel, although it can extremely expensive not only to build but also to maintain and may take years to pay for itself. One alternative would be to subscribe to a panel company and gain unlimited access to their population for all research needs. As long as the panel has the proper motivation, and are not just career survey takers, this is a great approach. This is a great way to reduce or get more out of your MR budget. Gaining unlimited access to a panel results in you spending your MR budget on insights rather than mechanics.

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