Questions to Ask a Market Research Company
17 May 2018

Questions to Ask a Market Research Company

Over a third (38%) of advertisers and in-house marketers find their market research firm through searching online. Googling ‘market research firm’ is closely followed by direct referrals from work colleagues, friends, and family (33%), conferences (28%), and online directories (25%). Over half of advertisers and in-house market researchers (59%) use an external market research firm. With all of that in mind, it is important to know a little bit about your market research firm before deciding to dive in and invest in research with them.*

The following are some key questions you should ask a market research firm you are considering working with:

  • Are the research services conducted at the company or are they outsourced?
  • What is being outsourced, if anything?
  • Is the person who I initially met with working on the project? If not, who will be working on the project? Are they responsive? What are their responsibilities? What is their background in research?
  • Do they have a clear understanding of the business objectives? target audience?
  • Will they customize their approach to your needs? Are they doing the most with your budget?
  • What will the timeline be? Is it realistic?
  • Do their compliance and security procedures match your need?


Many companies outsource large chunks of the research responsibility to other companies, whether they are smaller/cheaper companies or to companies abroad. Sometimes this means that quality is compromised. Also, context can be lost if outsourced to countries where the first language is not English. For example, when coding open-ends Prince (the international superstar) was discussed and misinterpreted by an outsourced research firm as a member of the Royal Family. In order to make sure that context is not in jeopardy and that quality remains high, be sure to ask your market research firm about their policy of outsourcing.

Another classic pitfall for companies using a market research firm for the first time is that they are sold on the company and their capabilities by a salesperson/business development manager. However, when it comes to the actual project, the person that they had been speaking to during the proposal process and lead up to the project is nowhere to be found. Make sure you meet the researcher or team that you will actually be working with on the project before committing with a market research firm.

Make sure that you educate your market research firm on your target audience. They are experts in research. They are not necessarily experts in your product or your target audience (unless they are conducting target audience research for you!). Therefore, make sure to bring them up to speed on everything to do with your product/brand. Give them all of the information they need to know in order to act as merely an extension of your company (rather than an outsider).

Before deciding on a market research vendor, be sure to recognize whether or not they will be customizing their approach to your brand. Do the market research company have a firm understanding of your business objectives? Make sure that the company you are working with does not take a cookie-cutter approach to your individual brand’s needs. Your company is distinct and therefore the market research solutions should be aligned to fit your company’s unique situation. Market research is not a one-size-fits-all product and should not be treated as if it is. Also, if you have a tight budget, make sure you’re getting value for your money. It is vital that the research firm is really thinking about your research needs critically and deciding on a methodology that not only bests suits you but will kill as many birds with one stone.

Last but not least, when a timeline is presented, make sure to think about it and question it. Will it really be feasible for this company to write, program, analyze, present an online survey in one week – probably not. Be smart and speculate whether or not the timeline is really realistic.

Another important area to analyze about your market research company is compliance. In order for market research to be a success, the company needs to ensure accuracy, security, and efficient data collection. There should be rigorous checks in place to be confident that each respondent is of the highest quality. Security checks should be discussed in order to make sure that data collection is compliant; many companies need the data collection process to follow with HIPPA and Safe Harbor regulations. These regulations not only ensure security and privacy for your company but also guarantee that you get the most conclusive results.

At Provoke Insights, we are strong believers being nimble, critical thinkers, and asking questions. Make sure to ask if your research vendor these questions and take note during the proposal process to their responsiveness/agility as a company.

* Provoke Insights conducted an online survey in 2018 to determine what companies look for when selecting a market research vendor.


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