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Q&A: How to Hire & Manage Market Research Agencies

front-cover-of-book1[Questions from readers of, “How to Hire & Manage Market Research Agencies.”]

Q:   Can I share data collected from a previous project with a new agency?

A: Check the contract from your previous supplier, but the answer is usually, “yes.” When you hire a market research agency to do custom research for you, you typically own the data. That said, I have seen a few exceptions. Exceptions are most likely to exist if your data collection was part of an omnibus program or pre-existing data set. BTW, it’s always a good idea in your contracts to have the raw database listed as one of the required deliverables.

Q: Sometimes I get a little intimidated by the proposals I get. Some agencies send very technical details that I am not qualified to judge. What should I do?

A: First, this says more about their style, than about your competence. If this is an agency that is really into technical details, and does not appear interested in making them accessible to a non-technical client—will you really enjoy working with them? Sure, they may have great qualifications, but there is a lot to be said for style.   A great agency has the technical qualifications and the ability to communicate effectively.  Second, if you find yourself really needing to sanity-check a technical proposal, you can hire an expert do read the proposal and give an opinion. Where to find such experts? Email me with the specific nature of the proposal, and I will recommend a qualified consultant.

Q: Every time we hire a new market research agency, it starts great. But then things seem to fall apart. Status updates become infrequent, phone calls go unreturned, details slip through cracks. How do I keep the initial momentum going?

A: Most of my tips on this topic are in Chapter 8 of the book. Not enough? Here are 2 more suggestions: write up some milestone requirements in the contract.  This might include a minimum number of written status memos, participation in status calls by senior project mangers, or even completion of on-site milestone meetings. You might also consider a creative exit clause; in the contract, an exit clause is a condition under which both parties agree to end the relationship.

Another option is to become the squeaky wheel. Market research agencies are consultancies; they have multiple clients they are juggling. So if they are under-staffed at a given moment, they will have a hard time keeping up. Being a friendly but loud squeaky wheel can help you get attention. Don’t over-rely on email-it’s too easy to ignore. Phone calls work best. And if they are local, invite your project manager to lunch or breakfast meetings. Keep the tone friendly as long as possible. If your agency contact becomes inadequately responsive, escalate it. Seek out a Senior Manager or VP. A polite but firm conversation will go a long way.

Q: We have never done a large study before, but are planning one. When I hire a market research agency, what kind of invoicing should I expect?

A: Let’s say it’s a $100,000 project. The most common scenario is that it would be billed in 3 equal payments; at kick-off, at start of data collection, upon completion. Terms are usually net 30 but lots of agencies have clients that require net 45. Long projects, ones stretching to 5 months or longer, may be spread across 4 payments, again based on some milestones.  If budget planning is an issue for you, you can negotiate to have invoicing align with your quarterly budget; most agencies are flexible about that sort of thing.

More questions? Email them in or call the Blog Requests Line at 508.691.6004. Thanks!


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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