There are many market research firms out there, from tiny consulting firms to huge multinational corporations. With all those choices, how do you find one that will best fit your company's needs?

Don't be intimidated. Be inquisitive. And ask these four questions of your next research supplier:

  1. Who, specifically, is going to do the work?

  2. What methods do you recommend for this project?

  3. How, exactly, will your proposed approach help me make marketing decisions?

  4. How do you report your research findings?

There is no single right or wrong answer to any of these questions. The nature of the project and the relationship you want with the firm will determine the "right" answers.

I'll explain why each question should matter to you and what to listen for in the research firm's answer.

1. Who, specifically, is going to do the work?

As with any service-oriented business, the people actually doing the work will have the greatest impact on the project's success or failure. That's why it's often said that you hire the people, not the company.

Meet the key players upfront so you can more clearly evaluate the firm's ability to deliver. It matters little that senior members of the firm are well-known industry leaders if they are not going to be involved in your project.

Establish your expectations for outcomes and process at the start. Make sure you are comfortable with how the firm responds to your expectations.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Erickson is the principal of Erickson Market Research (http://www.ericksonmr.com), a full-service research consulting firm based in Chicago. Ed can be reached at ed@ericksonmr.com and 312.612.1950.