How to find robust, representative and replicable market research


Globally, close to $60 Billion AUD is invested in professional market research services annually. This equates to around 8-10% of total digital / traditonal advertising spend / and excluding platforms, and does not include surveys conducted using platforms such as Survey Monkey with an annual revenue of around $150 Million.  Global research agencies Nielsen, Kantar (WPP owned) and Ipsos have global revenue of $8 Billion AUD, $5 Billion AUD and $3 Billion AUD respectively (more here). 

Innovative market research groups are experiencing continued strong growth and performance through leveraging technology, maintaining robust research fundamentals, and and more recently riding the rising trend of human understanding.

There will an increasing role of DIY research tools, yet professional market research plays a critical role in providing robust, representative and replicable insights. Larger brands place critical strategic priority on their internal consumer insight teams and outsources market research partnerships. Likely most market research buyers conduct some research and analysis internally and other research externally when the need for independence and a higher level of specialist expertise may be more important.

Research is the hidden special sauce of most global growth businesses, and is ever evolving and continuing to be with new approaches. Below is a simple check list to finding an insightful market researcher.

Step 1: Avoid Cowboys and Dabblers

There are seemingly few barriers to entry and with DIY tools such as SurveyMonkey, any peanut can proclaim to be a market researcher it seems. If the qualitative and quantitative data is not collected, stored, analysed and reported correctly, it will provide inaccurate findings and with this bogus insights and a high level of strategic risk.

The Australian market and social research industry associations AMSRS, AMSRO and RICA are very active in setting standards, and have many initiatives to help marketers and others seeking assistance in finding trustworthy market researchers. Professional market researchers also adhere to the Australian Market and Social Research Society’s strict Code of Professional Behaviour. Members of the Association of Market and Social Research Organisations work in accordance with the Privacy (Market and Social Research) Code 2014, the first and only registered privacy code under the Australian Privacy Principles (APP). Similar quality, privacy and ethical standards are maintained by market and social research associations globally – e.g. ESOMAR and MRS.

Step 2: Create a short-list

With the above in mind, it is now time to filter down to market researchers best fitting your team, ethos, strategic priorities etc. How you filter down to the market researchers best fitting your needs is obviously up to you.

Here are some tips …

1. Word-of-mouth

Which market researchers do your associates, friends and colleagues recommend? Ask, the marketers you respect for some suggestions. You may have different needs or desire to try someone new, but it is a great start.

2. Previous experience

Have you or your team ever had dealings with any market researchers? Visit the websites of market researchers and look for testimonials from past clients on how they have provided tangible support. This may include experience in your category and/or experience in other categories that may bring fresh perspective and insight.

3. Research the researchers

Google the market researchers you are considering. Search beyond the researcher’s website as to articles, conference presentations, videos, social media and other coverage on their perspectives and expertise

4. Areas of capability

Some market researchers are focused on qualitative approaches such as ethnography, focus groups and personal interviews. Some have a skew to panels, on-line communities or big data, surveys and other quantitative approaches. Other market researchers have a more holistic approach and utilise a wide range of methodologies to find consumer insights. Some researchers are full-service and have their own researchers, statisticians, moderators, panels, field teams (interviewing, recruiting etc) and phone interviewing capabilities. Others outsource particular capabilities. Market researchers may be part of a large national or international group, or smaller research agencies. It comes back to your requirements and intentions, preference for a large or smaller research agency, as well as any implications of outsourcing and the research methodologies used.

Other considerations

It is also important to check the skills and background of the market researchers, depth and range of expertise they can bring to your team. The ethos and philosophical fit of the market researcher to you and your team is also important. Are you seeking a conservative, modern, youthful or more traditional market researcher?

Step 3: Get to know them

Be open about your requirements, and strategic challenges and opportunities. Encourage them to discuss relevant experience and to illustrate their understanding of your business and how they may be able to assist. If possible, open up the discussion about a potential market research need, and see how they respond. Do you like what they say? Would you like to work with them in the short-term and potentially in the longer term?

Step 4: Commission market research

Okay, you are now ready to get started building a market research relationship. You may have already discussed this with your short-list or the market researcher you wish to work with. Where possible it is nice to have a written brief, but from my perspective this does not need to be too detailed. Of particular importance is what does success from the market research mean to you in the immediate, short and longer term?

1. Background

…such as details of your business, market, product or marketing issue, and strategic nature of the project and any relevant facts or previous research relevant to the project.

2. Research Purpose

…including details of the reason for the market research, such as specific business/marketing decisions that will be made on the basis of the research findings and insights.

3. Target Group[s]

…for the research such as customers, potential customers and potential audiences.

4. Project objectives

…which may include overall strategic objective, key outcomes and specific research objectives.

5. Timing

…including when you require the market research proposal and other critical deadlines / milestones for reporting, implementation of outcomes etc.

6. Budget

…expectations, needs or restrictions on this project. As an indication, budgets can range from around $10,000 to more than $100,000 for ad-hoc projects. An indication of available budget is fine, but stating a budget range does allow for the market researcher to define a methodology to fit your needs and financial constraints. If need be, the research may be phased or simplified to fit with budget limitations.

You can find an example brief template on via this link.

Step 5: Build a relationship

Typically a close relationship develops over time as the market researcher gains a stronger understanding of your requirements, working style and market research needs. Insights from multiple market research projects or tracking over time will snowball and a greater depth of understanding will be gathered.

The above is an shorter / tweaked version of a post from Jason Dunstone ‘5 steps to finding an insightful market researcher’ (200+ shares) from November 2015 Trinity P3 – click to read

The critical factor is finding the right market researcher. When the client-partnership is well matched the return on investment is exponential. If you feel Square Holes may have a good market research match with your business, we would love to talk – 1800 038 257.

Square Holes is an independently owned and operated award winning consumer insight provider abiding by the AMSRO Privacy Code 2014 for Market and Social Research and ISO 20252:2012 certified (Quality in Market and Social Research). Square Holes is a member of Association of Market and Social Research Organisations (AMSRO) member since 2004 and endorsed by the Trustmark. Researchers are members of Australian Market and Social Research Society (AMSRS), and bound by the Code of Professional Behaviour.

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