30 Market Research Experts Reveal The #1 Biggest Mistake Companies Make When Contracting Out Market Research

By far, one of the most effective ways a company can obtain meaningful, unbiased industry data is by conducting market research.

Because, as aptly described by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when done properly market research is able to help companies examine potential sales of a product or service, or understand what products people want, who will buy them, and at what price, or countless other important business insights.

Since many of the businesses and experts we work with here at Zintro benefit immensely from market research, but are not themselves market research professionals, we wanted to learn more about the market research process. More specifically, wanted to discover expert tips from market research experts on the most common (and avoidable) mistakes companies make when contracting out market research. To do this, we asked 30 market research experts to answer this question:

“What’s the biggest mistake companies make when contracting out market research?”

We’ve collected and compiled their expert advice into this comprehensive guide on how to effectively contract out market research. See what our experts said below:

Meet Our Panel of Market Research Experts:

Bryan MattimoreBryan Mattimore

Bryan Mattimore is the Co-Founder of The Growth Engine Co., an innovation agency based in Norwalk, CT. Bryan has been moderator of over 500 focus groups and 200 innovation projects for Fortune 500 companies leading to over $3 billion in annual sales. He is also the author of two books, the newest being: “Idea Stormers, How To Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs” (Wiley Jossey-Bass, 2012).

The biggest mistake that companies make when contracting for qualitative research (aka focus groups) is…

They expect the groups to give them definitive answers instead of interesting questions and/or directions to pursue. We think of these groups as an invitation to learning and exploring, not as way to make definitive decisions.

The biggest mistake clients make in quantitative research (for instance on-line surveys with typically 200 or more respondents) is to have not spent enough time thinking about the criteria for screening the respondents in the study.

Kay CruseKay Cruse

Kay Cruse is the Vice President of Strategex, a Chicago-based, global market research and strategic consultancy, and has been helping companies grow and prosper by using strategic and actionable market research and discovery for over 20 years. In her leadership role, she uses Voice of the Customer market research to support corporate and brand development, customer satisfaction and loyalty assessments, as well as comparative competitive market intelligence.

Based on my experience, there are five big mistakes companies make when contracting out market research and they typically fall into three phases:

Pre-Research, During Research and Post-Research. Missing any one of these watch-out areas can set your study on a path of disappointment even before you begin.

Pre-Research Phase

Mistake #1: Not Identifying the Most Capable Vendor Resource for Your Study.

Questions to consider: What direct experience has the vendor had in your preferred type of methodology? Can your vendor explain the pros and cons of this type of research option?

Mistake #2: Not Defining the Objectives of the Study Itself.

What do you want the study to accomplish? Many times, clients will ‘jump’ to the questions to ask, versus plotting out the objectives. Give your vendor objectives, then let the market research professionals construct the questions to support your objectives.

Research Phase

Mistake #3: Wrong List, Wrong People Equals Wrong Information.

Be sure you’re querying the right people – whether in a “Voice of the Customer” discovery, Internet survey, or moderated facilitated Focus Group. A quality market research house will guide you through identifying the best mix of people to deliver the level of information you’re seeking.

Mistake #4: Constructing questions that are ambiguous or leading.

Many times, client-companies want market research to support their own beliefs as opposed to going to their customers to dig into what’s really going on. That can mean only asking the questions they know will give them the information they want to hear.

Post-Research Phase

Mistake #5: Not Trusting the Results.

Quality market research sometimes delivers painful results to companies. In reality, that’s a good thing. More importantly, based on the findings, your research partner should be able to define strategic, actionable steps to take to improve your company’s health, productivity, and ultimately, its profitability.

Tim GlowaTim Glowa

Tim Glowa is the Co-Founder and Partner of Bug Insights, a marketing analytics company, and is a results-focused marketing analytics and human resources consultant who has been helping clients solve complex marketing or human capital challenges for nearly twenty years. A recognized thought leader in the preference measurement, total rewards strategy development, and human capital analytics spaces, Tim has published several articles on conjoint and its applications. He has presented on this topic at numerous conferences in North America, Asia and Europe. He has conducted a number of studies over the past two decades for senior executives at Fortune 500 companies in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and the U.K.

I think there are two big problems with most managers requesting market research. Both of these problems cause the results of the research to be less useful than they could be, and will – sooner or later – hurt the organization by failing to deliver the best marketing insights that are possible…

Problem 1 – prescribing a technique – I’ve seen this happen all the time – both as an external consultant, but also as an internal partner. Someone in the organization wants research, but instead of relying on the experience of the research manager or the consultant, they not only say the problem they are having, but how the research should be conducted. 9 times out of ten, the methodology is completely wrong. For instance, I’ve had managers tell me they wish to estimate the demand for a new product (great idea), then say they’d like to do a couple of days of focus groups to do this (bad idea). You need an experienced researcher to match the problem with the right solution. Focus groups are great to uncover ‘why’ people believe what they do, but because you are only talking to a small number of people (usually 50-75 over a couple of groups), you cannot project this to a broader audience of all customers. You need to match the approach with the problem
you are trying to solve.

Problem 2 – Using purely descriptive research, when you need something prescriptive. This is also very common. You’ll administer a survey, and find that 60% of people are satisfied with your products or service. But you won’t know if this is a good number, or a bad one, because there is no context – its purely descriptive. Now, if you tracked over time, and found out last year you were at 80% and now are at 60% (a 20 point decline), you can investigate why. Or you might have norms that are available, and understand that other competitors have a rating of 50% and you have a 60% score, so thats good. But without context, its almost a meaningless number.

Problem 3 – As an extra, the biggest problem, and one that happens in the vast majority of market research reports is the data dump. Whoever is doing the analysis wants to include every possible combination of data into the presentation, presumably to show the value they are creating. But the problem with this, is it often is without any interpretation. I want to scream when I see a title saying “satisfaction by age”, and then a table of data without any context, summary or interpretation. A good research report should stand on its own – it should summarize the data, have a logical story, make prescriptive recommendations that summarize both insights and implications to the business, and should be about 10-15 powerpoint pages maximum.

Anne-Marie DuffyAnnie-Marie Duffy

Anne-Marie Duffy is the President of Communications & Brand Analytics Practice for Phoenix Marketing International, a market research firm.

One of the biggest mistakes that clients make in contracting out market research is…

To take a narrow approach that:

a) treats research as a commodity instead of something that in most cases should be a creative partnership (one that yields efficient and effective answers to a business challenge) and

b) approaches the research project with very specific parameters in terms of methodology, audience, scope…even sample size.

This can lead to a narrower, more compartmentalized project–one that may focus too much on their own brand instead of the overall market and competitive set, or on current customers rather than potential customers and new untapped markets. It can even lead to spending more than is necessary.

By taking a broader approach we can work with a client to inventory what we, and they, likely already know. By probing syndicated databases or prior research conducted, we can move forward, and not waste valuable time and money confirming what was learned in the past. There may be a new product or research approach that will yield better learnings in a shorter time, or for less money — or both!

Research is always evolving, and repeating the past for fear of “losing track” can mean missing out on an opportunity to move a brand forward, therefore gaining deeper insights into competitors, consumer behavior, and the client’s industry.

Pedram SameniPedram Sameni

Pedram Sameni is the CEO and Founder of Patexia, an online platform connecting corporations to subject matter experts who help them assess their IP portfolios. At Patexia, Pedram has harnessed the power of crowdsourcing, leveraging a large network of subject matter experts to provide innovative market research solutions.

The biggest mistake that companies make when contracting out market research is…

Going too broad.

An overview of the entire market is informative, but in terms of making successful business strategy decisions, the most crucial piece of information is often not in the broad strokes, but the result of an in depth analysis of a specific market segment. In reality companies would often benefit from a survey of a smaller sample size with a deeper emphasis on a few target characteristics. Especially crucial is to make sure that the research firm a company employs has access to the right subject matter experts to derive accurate data.

Traditionally prepared market research reports are often faced with an inability to sufficiently customize the work while keeping the final product cost efficient for both the client and the firm. Thus, when contracting out market research, companies need to think strategically and decide in advance the scope of information that will be most valuable. They should not instinctively choose the most famous firm if it does not specialize in the industry and information they actually need. This will result in a, no doubt well crafted, but ultimately generalized report of limited value.

To elicit the most useful research, the company must first consider the most critical questions for their decision making process, and then select a research firm with the expertise to tap into that information and relevant communities of experts, even if that means thinking outside of the box on the type of research firm to employ.

Andrea MasciAndrea Masci

Andrea Masci is the Global Vice President of Strategy & Execution for SAP, the world’s number one business software provider. In his leadership role, Andrea oversees the strategy management of SAP Services worldwide. Among his many responsibilities, Andrea coordinates the whole market intelligence relative to the IT Services business. Learn more about Andrea and his work at www.andreamasci.com.

The biggest mistake companies make when contracting out market research is…

To select the provider based on existing open frame contracts/ relationships.

Selecting a provider for out market research has to be strictly tailored to the organization’s specific information needs. For instance, are you looking for a market forecast? For a detailed benchmark? For a customer buying expectation or behavioral analysis? In what vertical market? For what specific services or product?

Even within the same industry, each provider is different – even if they present themselves as generalists. When considering out market providers, organizations should ask these questions of a potential provider:

• What areas do you specialize in? Providers will have specific deeper expertise and reliability levels along certain themes and segments – based on their past experience and work with special projects in the same areas

• What are your different research methodologies? For example, does the potential provider build its structure around interviews with market players, or with a customer interview-base, or perhaps around a mathematical-based model? Depending on which, it will make them more or less accurate for your focused topic

• What are your underlying market beliefs? Seek to understand their expert point of view on the market. Does it align with yours? This will influence their analysis.

Further, as is pretty common with any market research project, you will likely want to investigate deeper along a specific aspect, which you would not have anticipated before. Clearly, your provider needs to be able to build upon that.

Thus, when you are preparing to seek out market research, query your provider short-list on how they would accomplish to your scope – and determine whether their research methodology fits your content purpose and whether it is modular enough to allow minor scope variations without requiring a new project to be kicked off.

Scott C. HammondScott C. Hammond

Scott C. Hammond, PhD is a Clinical Professor of Management in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. He teaches market research and consumer behavior.

The biggest problem with marketing research is…

Making claims that go beyond the data. This often comes when we try and use rate to describe occasion, or occasion to describe rate.

Rate, using numbers and statistics, measures how often something occurs. Occasion, using words, examines the qualities of those occasions.

Rate addresses questions like how often customers are satisfied at what level? What is the size of the market? How many of what kinds of customers are in the market? Qualitative measures can help us know what customer service means? Why customers select your product? What customer service means?

The most common mistake in marketing research is making a rate claim using an occasion measure (like a forces group, or interviews) or making an occasion assumption using a rate measure.

Jennifer DaleJennifer Dale

Jennifer Dale is the President & CEO of InsideHeads, LLC, a full-service online market research company with over 17 years experience administering web surveys, moderating online focus groups and conducting in-depth interviews.

Hands down, the biggest mistake companies make when contracting out market research is…

Not knowing what they’re going to do with the findings when the study is complete.

Sounds ludicrous, I know, but I have to guide my clients down that road, most didn’t even know existed. More than a research objective, to make a research study truly actionable companies need to think through the actions that will be needed once they receive the findings. Too often research is conducted to tacitly confirm an opinion or proposed strategy, and the resulting report and recommendations for next steps unfortunately sits dusty on a shelf.

Bryan ClaytonBryan Clayton

Bryan Clayton is the CEO of GreenPal, a web and mobile app connecting lawn care professionals with homeowners.

I would say one big mistake companies make when conducting market research is…

Their failure to validate their hypothesis and findings,

Before jumping off the deep end and launching a new business idea or building a new product, entrepreneurs need to validate the question, does anybody care about this?

This can be accomplished by running some quick inexpensive campaigns/experiments in Google Ad-words, and Facebook’s ad platform as well.

As a very basic example, if someone wanted to start a new home cleaning business. They could run an ad on Facebook for: “Now taking new appointments for home cleaning”.

Then target that down to the geo they are considering and also who their target market would be. Then by measuring the click through rate on the ad, one will be able to discern very easily if there is any demand for their business idea, or even if anyone would care about it. This can save entrepreneurs months and years of pain beating their head against the wall trying to sell something that no one is interested in.

David PoulosDavid Poulos

David Poulos, a.k.a. “The Marketing Doctor”, has over thirty years of marketing experience, ranging from private enterprise, state and federal government, non-profit and charitable organizations, and has effectively served as Director of Sales for Pan International, Director of Marketing for National Information Corporation, and as Director of Client Accounts for Strategic Partners Group. Davod is the author of “The Marketing Doctor’s Survival Notes,” and has published over 20 articles on a variety of marketing topics in nationally
published magazines and websites, has published over five year’s worth of weekly blog articles on non-profit and commercial marketing, management and customer service best practice, and has been quoted as an expert in articles appearing on Fox News Small Business and MSN Main Street Business websites. Learn more about David and his work at www.themarketingdoc.com.

There are lots of common errors companies make when hiring out market research services – one of the biggest is…

Making assumptions about what they know and don’t know, and what they want the research to accomplish. Can’t achieve if you don’t know the goal.

One other large mistake is that companies don’t see research as an investment in making their marketing more effective, just as an expense. That lack of belief in value tends to make them shop by price rather than desired outcome, and they rarely get the full benefit of the research data as a result.

Another common mistake is to not set aside adequate funds to enact the marketing efforts the research data indicates are needed. Now you’ve got a report that does no good. We’ve offered research as the basis of our engagements since our inception in 1997, and it’s the cornerstone of our practice.

Dipanjan ChatterjeeDipanjan Chatterjee

Dipanjan Chatterjee is a Senior Vice President at BAV Consulting, a Y&R company, where he advises some of the world’s best brands on marketing strategy. Prior to BAV, Dipanjan was an investment banker at Morgan Stanley, a strategy consultant at Booz & Co., and has held several senior executive positions in the industry.

In my work advising leading global companies in brand and marketing strategy, I frequently execute market research on their behalf. Most clients I deal with already have a mountain of research lying neglected in a cubicle or in the furthest recesses of someone’s hard drive. There is little understanding of how this voluminous research (and the investment in it) will move the needle for the business. One of the biggest mistakes companies make in outsourcing research is…

To not do the requisite homework ahead of time: have a clearly defined purpose for the research triggered by clear business imperatives, and a tactical game plan of how to implement the findings of the research.

The other crucial ingredient for success is to have a designated internal business owner lead every step of the way – from thought leadership to process coordination – so that contracting research is more a partnership and less a hand-off into the great unknown.

Frances ReimersFrances Reimers

Frances Reimers is a Senior Account Executive and the Director of Corporate Visibility of PCI communications. With more than ten years experience in communications, marketing, public relations and event management, Frances plays an integral role on the PCI project management and sales teams. She also lends business development expertise to PCI marketing strategy, outreach, and client development. Frances is a sought-after speaker who provides presentations on a variety of marketing, communications and events topics for businesses and not-for-profits across the country.

The biggest mistake that organizations make when contracting out market research companies is…

Not following through with the data they have been given.

While not always clear-cut, market research such as focus groups allows companies to receive real-time feedback regarding their message, brand, product, or service. But sadly, often if that feedback does not coincide with the organizations previously held belief the data is put on a shelf never to be implemented. I always encourage my clients to view market research as a ‘free pass’ to tweak whatever it is we’re analyzing to make it more effective. Some buy that philosophy, others not so much.

Another challenge is that some organizations are receptive to market research, but lack the manpower or skill sets in order to implement the data. When that is the case, and there isn’t a budget to work with a firm, the data is relegated to the shelf.

Emil LamprechtEmil Lamprecht

Emil Lamprecht is the CMO and Creative Director of CareerFoundry. He’s worked as a product designer and marketing specialist for 7 years, including research and launch of entire products for major manufacturers like Duncan Toys.

The mistake companies make in contracting market research is two-fold:

One, companies don’t really know what they want or need, they have a vague idea that their product should focus in a general direction, and expect the contracted company to fill in the blanks. But in doing this they lack control, essentially by giving the decision power to a company that isn’t selling the product and ultimately may not have an infrastructural understanding of the companies strengths.

Two, by not categorizing potential niches before outsourcing the research, a company’s general inquiry will receive a general review of the market, putting you in a please-all position with your marketing strategy.

Adam O’LearyAdam O’Leary

Adam O’Leary is the President of Encite Marketing and a graduate of Colorado State University who has experience on both the client and agency side of the marketing world. He founded Encite in 2005 with unique and more efficient business model that caters to small business. In his leadership role, he sets the strategic direction for all Encite projects and develops integrated marketing campaigns that bring results.

We have found that the biggest mistake companies make when contracting out market research is…

Not having trust.

Trust is a powerful thing. It must first be evident in the market research firm prior to a company hiring them (obviously), but it also must be in data that comes from the results. A company must trust the findings even if that data uncovers issues that they may not want to hear or leads to a change with their product/service, company structure or procedure & processes.

We have worked with several small businesses that, after conducting a research campaign, they didn’t trust the findings, which led to them not using the data. Obviously, this is a huge waste of time, money and resources. We have actually had one firm tell us, “That’s not right. I’ve been in this business 25 years and our customers don’t think like that.” This was amazing to us since the feedback we were discussing were issues that several of their current customers informed us of.

Edith BullardEdith Bullard

Edith Bullard is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for PCI, an integrated marketing agency, and has over 30 years of experience in brand management, advertising, integrated marketing, market research, e-business and event management. She joined PCI to spearhead the development and growth of a new and expanding Communications Division, and serves a variety of corporate, not-for-profit, and government clients.

The top mistakes I’ve seen companies make when contracting out market research are…

Hiring the first market research firm they speak with.

It’s important to conduct due diligence to make sure that the firm you hire is truly able to conduct the type of research in which you’re interested – can they conduct the methodology required, do they work in the needed geographic area, do they have access to your target audience. Also pricing varies greatly between firms so you’ll want to get quotes from more than one firm.

Often companies approach market research without having a clear objective for the project. What are you really trying to achieve? Hand in hand with that is companies who try to accomplish too much during one research project. A good marketing research firm should be able to help narrow the focus of your research so you’ll get actionable results.

Companies should make sure they have clearly identified the target audience for their research and then they need to really hold the market research firm accountable for recruiting the right people. I’ve often had to reject recruited candidates because they did not meet the screening requirements. Carefully watching the recruiting process is a must.

Last, make sure the market research firm you choose is expert in the methodology that will get you the information you want and need. A firm that specializes in focus groups, for example, will not be able to return quantitative results. Your research objectives should lead to the right methodology, which in turn should lead your choice of firm that conducts your research.

Mike BloxhamMike Bloxham

Mike Bloxham is the Vice President, National TV and Video, of Frank N. Magid Associates, a leading research-based strategic consulting firm, and has worked in media research and consulting for over 25 years, advising multi-national corporations, media owners and government agencies on strategic marketing and communications issues on an international basis. A recognized innovator and thought leader in the media space, he has extensive experience in attitudinal and behavioral research across all media and marketing channels with a particular emphasis on the integration of emerging and traditional media among all audiences from children to seniors. Frank N. Magid Associates has provided expert research-based counsel to clients in the media space for almost sixty years.

The real value in any research project is not in how it is executed but in how it is designed and interpreted. Quality execution is merely hygiene and is an entry-level requirement. Nobody appoints a company they don’t believe will do a good job of running the project. Many research clients bemoan the fact that their suppliers do a good job of executing and of reporting on what they did and what they found, but not on taking it further to how it impacts the business. The mistake then, is…

In not seeking out research partners that have both subject matter expertise and the consultative skills to accelerate the understanding of the business implications of the insights revealed and how they can be harnessed to move the needle on the issues at hand.

The solution is to ensure you have evidence of a research partners’ ability to go beyond “What we did and what we found” to “What it means and what you should do.” This will cost more, but it will also deliver more value.

Of course, not every project requires this level of service from the supplier, but for those that do failing to secure the right skills and mindset beyond the ability to execute well results in a less effective project and a slower assimilation of implications and opportunities – which is probably the biggest mistake anyone can make.

Jonathan PircJonathan Pirc

Jonathan Pirc is the Founder of Lab42, a quantitative market research firm that helps businesses accomplish and prioritize their goals through targeted social media-based research.

The biggest mistake companies make when contracting out market research is…

Not having a complete grasp on the scope of work or the goals of the market research project.

We’ve found that when our clients go into a project with an incomplete thought process, it opens the door to not asking (and answering) the right questions, extended timelines and increased expenses. Fully understanding the goals of your market research is a very important step in the process, and the market research company you do business with should walk you through every step before actually moving forward with the project.

Alicia KanAlicia Kan

Alicia Kan is a Branding and Social Media Strategist at Globe Runner, an SEO, content marketing and online advertising agency in Dallas, Texas. She marketed an international market research company for 12 years that covered 62 locations across the world.

The biggest mistakes companies make when contracting out market research are…

Not being clear on the objectives.

What works for measuring customer experience may not necessarily work for advertising testing. Be clear about what you want out of the research — benchmarks? proof of ROI? new product guidance? — and make sure the supplier designs the study and uses the appropriate methodology to complete these objectives. The worst that can happen is getting back a bunch of PowerPoint charts and now knowing what to do with the information.

Not being clear about the budget.

Generally qualitative research (focus groups etc) cost more than quantitative studies. See previous point about objectives in design study and consider how your budget fits in with these. You can run up a bill if costs aren’t watched. A good vendor will work with you on the budget and see that a study is designed as cost-efficiently as possible, e.g. close-ended questions instead of open-ended ones for a questionnaire.

Not having a tight questionnaire.

Some surveys in quantitative studies can ramble on in different directions. Keep it focused, with a logical flow, in as short a time as possible. The longer it is, especially for online surveys, the more likely a respondent will lose interest and not complete the survey. When designing an online survey, it’s always useful to have a meter that shows progress or time left in the survey.

Guy SmithGuy Smith

Guy Smith is the Chief Strategist at Silicon Strategies Marketing. Guy generates trust throughout your organization with his precise guidance and transfers of marketing knowledge that create marketing strategy buy-ins. He helps executives build teams ready to implement go-to-market strategies by including key staff and stakeholders throughout all processes.

The biggest mistake companies make when contracting out market research is…

They often don’t understand the problem that they need to solve, and thus ask for the wrong answers.

If a manager or entrepreneur is looking at the problem from their bias, then the problem to solve is poorly defined. If they believe in their hearts the issue is, say, competitive pressures, they will ask for competitive research. If the problem was actually quality control creating negative buzz about the product, he would never learn that.

The second biggest mistake is not in contracting for the work, but what to do afterwards. All too often the manager doesn’t like the answer he receives. Sometimes it reflects badly on him, or it shows weaknesses he cannot quickly address, or it goes against his perceptions. The research then becomes wasted paper because he takes no action on it.

Werner G KrebsWerner G. Krebs

Werner G Krebs, Ph.D. is the CEO of Acculation, an Internet of Things Predictive Analytics company, and is a data scientist who was worked for top firms in high-frequency trading, marketing analytics consulting, banking, software, and academia. As a software developer he has extensive experience migrating demanding applications to the cloud.

The biggest mistake companies make when contracting out market research is…

Not doing their homework and utilizing low-cost Web 2.0-techniques to get their idea perfected first before contracting out.

Technologies like Social Media, Google Adwords, on-line surveys, Amazon Mechanical Turk make it possible to get that is similar — in some cases statistically identical — to what’s available from traditional contract market research firms, but at a fraction of the price.

Even if they (or their investors) want that validation from a traditional market research firm, it makes sense to take advantage of these low-cost tools first to make sure their is viable before spending the big bucks to get that extra, external validation.

Daryl TravisDaryl Travis

Daryl Travis is CEO of Chicago-based emotional research and brand strategy firm, Brandtrust.

The biggest mistake companies make with market research is…

Settling for data instead of demanding insights.

For example, asking a plethora of questions about what is happening in the marketplace yet neglecting to reveal why it is happening. Research that delivers only findings is hardly worth the cost. It’s one thing to gather data and analyze patterns in the data but it’s another thing altogether to translate data into insights that deliver competitive advantage to the business.

Everyone knows people say one thing and do another. People don’t know their own minds and can’t predict what they will do. Yet conventional market research persists in asking respondents what they think they think. What people think is the correct answer to a research question does marketing researchers and strategists very little good. In fact, it frequently leads them astray.

That’s why we must utilize research methods that allow us to explore non-conscious motivations, people’s unarticulated desires and needs. It means we have to get into people’s heads. But it’s dark in there and we don’t know our way around. It makes researchers uncomfortable. So much so, it becomes acceptable to settle for shallow, one-dimensional research that provides answers to *what* is happening but never *why*. Yet, if we don’t discover why people do what they do, we’ll never meet their unarticulated desires and needs. And fail to find any advantage in the market place.

Leslie HandmakerLeslie Handmaker

Leslie Handmaker is the Marketing Manager of NextDayFlyers, and online printing company.

Over the past couple of years we’ve outsourced some market research responsibilities, overall I believe that outsourcing market research in itself is a mistake for the following reasons:

1. When outsourced, even the savviest consultants hired to do the research just aren’t familiar enough with the space we’re in and thus they don’t always realize they’ve uncovered pertinent details in their research. We’ve found this out the hard way as items happened to come up during a conversation, but were never included in the reporting documents.

2. It’s essential that internal teams perform the research on their own, this way the learnings are ingrained in the team and not forgotten.

Kenny KlineKenny Kline

Kenny Kline is a Consultant, Entrepreneur, and Founder of Slumber Sage, the premier source for sleep methods and sleep products online.

The biggest mistake that companies make when contracting out market research is…

Not being involved in the process.

I’ve done a lot of market research for companies, and seen market research that has been outsourced, and the greatest single factor that leads to success is client involvement. No one knows the product/service and the company’s capacity to execute on a given market better than the client. A lot of outsourcing firms will come back with beautiful decks and fancy numbers, but this doesn’t mean the information reflects the core competency of the company. Use the outsourcing company’s smarts/perspective with the client’s inside info for a winning combination!

Jerry W. ThomasJerry W. Thomas

Jerry W. Thomas is the President and CEO of Dallas/Fort Worth-based Decision Analyst Inc., a leading international marketing research firm. The company was founded 38 years ago and currently employs about 240 researchers and staff. Decision Analyst Inc. is about the 12th largest marketing research firm in the U.S. In addition to the company’s traditional research methodologies, it operates what is believed to be the world’s largest online consumer opinion panel, which has nine million participants around the world.

The single biggest mistake companies make when contracting out market research is…

Choosing a research firm that promises to answer every question and solve every problem (and often promises to do all of this at a surprisingly low price).

The very best research cannot answer every question or solve every problem. To do good research requires the time of highly educated, experienced researchers, who must spend significant time on research design, questionnaire design, and analysis to come up with solid answers and recommendations.

To do good research requires that the research firm survey the right respondents. Expensive staff and expensive respondents are expensive, but the contracting firm ends up with good solutions and good value for the money.

Kalyan BangaKalyan Banga

Kalyan Banga is Head of Global Market Research & Analytics of VOZIQ, a social business intelligence firm. He is an accomplished market research professional with over 10 years of experience in the field of research framework design, social media research & analytics, consumer insights mapping and developing Go-To-Market (GTM) Business Strategies. He has also been quoted widely by various industry publications.

One of the biggest mistakes that companies make when contracting out market research is…

Allowing the contractor to suffer from a lack of focus on your project:

For businesses, one of the biggest concerns is ensuring that their market research contractor is providing due attention to their research projects. A contractor may be catering to the expertise-needs of numerous organizations at the same time and sometimes might lack total focus on your research needs and objectives thus defeating the end objective of undertaking the research work thereby making the output redundant instead of providing real insights& strategies for decision making.

As a check, regular checkpoints and weekly milestones needs to be set to ensure projects are performed with accuracy and efficiency.

Sandy AronsSandy Arons

Sandy Arons is the Founder and President of Arons & Associates Divorce Planning, a firm helps divorcing couples understand the numbers in the settlement and get a financially smart divorce. Prior to this position, Sandy spent decades in corporate America in sales and marketing jobs. While employed with Johnston and Murphy and Bridgestone Firestone, she was responsible for the first marketing research projects these companies ever conducted to understand consumer buying behavior.

One of the biggest mistake companies make when contracting out marketing research is when…

Management underestimates the amount of time it takes to dissect the information and distill it into layman’s terms so it can be incorporated into strategic planning.

Management also assigns these types of projects to employees that don’t have the marketing or statistics background to fully understand the implications of the results.

Too often the research is completed but, not really incorporated into strategic planning for the company as a whole or the different relevant departments (sales, marketing, operations etc.). If it is incorporated, it is short term.

Ron SellersRon Sellers

Ron Sellers is the President of Grey Matter Research & Consulting in Phoenix, AZ, and has been on the client and vendor sides of research and consumer insights for nearly three decades. His clients have included multiple Fortune 500 companies and many smaller firms and organizations.

One of the biggest mistakes in contracting out research is…

Not seeking to be in a genuine partnership with the research consultant.

A good researcher should not just be an order-taker but should be a partner in making the research as helpful and insightful as possible for the end client. This means expecting a high-level person to handle the project, expecting them to understand your specific industry and unique business situation, expecting them to make intelligent recommendations, and expecting them to treat the project as if it were their own. But it also means listening when they make recommendations, giving them all the background and information necessary for them to understand your business situation, and treating them like a partner in the process rather than just a vendor to which orders are being given.

Whether a research company or consultant is prepared to act as a partner can be determined during the RFP process. A researcher who doesn’t ask questions about the RFP, doesn’t seek to discuss it with you to gain a more complete understanding, doesn’t ask for additional information, or doesn’t make suggestions about the project probably is more of an order-taker than a potential partner. At the same time, if you’re not open to suggestions, are frustrated when questions are asked, feel offended when the researcher suggests something different than you designed, don’t have time to discuss things with the researcher, and/or just want to select a vendor based on lowest price, then you’re probably not ready to partner with a researcher and get the full value of what a good partnership can be.

Edward NevraumontEdward Nevraumont

Edward Nevraumont is currently the Chief Marketing Officer of A Place For Mom and prior to this role, he was a Marketing Executive at Expedia (overseeing Loyalty & Database Marketing and Marketing Strategy globally), an Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company and a “P&Ger”. He also holds an MBA from The Wharton School. Learn more about Edward and his work at MarketingIsEasy.com.

The biggest mistake companies make when initiating customer research is…

Not deciding beforehand what they will do with the answers.

Most of the time Market Research is done for the sake of it and to feel good about a
decision you were going to make anyway. Good market research design helps you make decisions – by deciding before you even start how different answers will cause you to go forward with different routes. If you are going to do the same thing regardless of the result you get back you are wasting your time – and lining the pockets of the services company (who will be happy to take your money)

Elliot SimmondsElliot Simmonds

Elliot Simmonds is a Marketing Consultant with more than seven years’ experience on the agency side of market research. He has won and worked on projects across a wide range of industries, including numerous research studies in the education sector and for clients including The Home Office. He regularly blogs about marketing and consumer insight topics on the Rippleout Marketing blog.

The biggest mistake companies make when contracting market research is…

To confuse research goals and business goals.

Too often, briefs are prescriptive in terms of methodology or contain too much detail on how companies want a project to run, whilst missing out the key information – i.e. what is the long term impact of this research going to be, what do you really want to find out. Leave the decisions as to methodology to professionals, and concentrate on providing clear objectives for the research outcomes.

Mike PollerMike Poller

Mike Poller is an experience Marketing Consultant with over 20 years of experience. and the Owner of Poller & Jordan Advertising Agency, a Miami-based marketing firm.

In my experience in market research, the biggest problem companies make when contracting out market research is…

First, when companies do not know the question they want answered. The second biggest mistake is when they already know what they want the answer to be.

Sometimes using market research is the mistake…

These days, it is often easier to use Google Adwords to do a live test of different offers. Set up three different ad campaigns using three different offers and put a few hundred dollars behind it to see which resonates with consumers. For example, 10% off vs 12% off vs 15% off

Similarly, using Google Adwords you can test your offer across the top ten markets or test rural vs urban. The possibilities are nearly endless.

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