The construction, home improvement and lawn and garden industries are evolving. No longer can established companies rely on their gut instincts if they wish to grow. Nor can you get all the answers you need from a secondary research report you purchased online.
It’s critical not only to continue using internal information and secondary data sources but also to partner with a market research firm who adds deeper insights for your brand and products by name.
Selecting a partner to conduct research on your behalf can be a challenge. Often, you are making a significant investment upfront on a firm’s promise to deliver what they say they can. Luckily, there are ways to figure out which firm will be best for you, depending on your specific project, budget and business objectives.
Why Should Companies Use Market Research Firms?
Whether you’re developing a new product, trying to better understand customer usage and behaviors, or monitoring the health of your brand in comparison to competitors, you can’t depend on vague or generic information. You need customized research, industry expertise and accurate interpretation of the results to help you make critical business decisions that promote growth.
A quality market research firm will have an understanding of your business niche that brings you added value beyond the data, whether your company caters to the home improvement, lawn and garden, or building product sectors. An ideal market research firm will also provide data and analysis that is relevant to your local, regional, national or global markets, products, brands and competitors.
How Do I Choose a Market Research Firm?
There are advantages to working with a market research firm, but getting the most out of your project depends on selecting the right one. Different firms have different strengths, services and focuses, and then there are the attributes you always want when partnering with an outside firm: reliability, timeliness and delivering value.
To guide your decision-making process, here are 10 key questions you should ask when choosing a market research firm:
1. Does the firm work in and have knowledge about your particular geographic region?
Location plays a role in many aspects of various home improvement industries. Where people live or where building professionals work can impact the equipment they need or their purchase motivations. While the best market research firm for you may not be located directly in your city or region, it’s important that they have familiarity with your market and the geographic factors that impact it, such as climate, housing trends, demographic trends, and the unique challenges of property owners in those markets.
2. Does the firm have expertise about your industry and category?
It’s ideal to partner with a market research company that specializes in your particular industry, since general firms may not know which segments of consumers to research, how larger industry trends impact your business, or how to get in touch with difficult-to-reach professional end-users. The more industry specific expertise they have, the less time you’ll spend getting them up to speed and the more they will bring to the table to get better results.
3. Do they have a history of success with companies like yours?
A top market research firm will have an established reputation for stability and reliability. You can verify this attribute by checking reviews, reading testimonials and even directly contacting companies who used the firm in the past and were satisfied with the results. It’s especially helpful to get references from past clients with business objectives similar to yours. Then, contact the references and ask them how they used the research. A good market research firm will be more than willing to connect you with satisfied clients who used their research to inform decisions.
4. What is the capacity of the firm?
Capacity is another attribute that impacts the effectiveness of a market research company. If a firm doesn’t have a robust team or they’re already spread thin with other projects, it can negatively affect the timeliness and delivery of your research project, as well as the quality of the data and market insights. Before making a selection, learn more about a firm’s team of professionals and their areas of expertise to determine if they have the ability to manage the size and scope of your project in a timely and efficient way. Conversely, is the company so large that you and your project will get passed through many staffers leaving you with a lack of dedicated attention to your needs.
5. Does the firm conduct the exact kind of research best suited to answer your questions?
The term “market research” is fairly broad. In fact, there are different categories of research and various tools, techniques and approaches that go along with them. It’s important to tailor how you approach market research to the type of data and recommendations you are seeking. Whether you need insights on customer usage and attitudes (U&A), brand health, market sizing or product development, find a firm that offers the right services for your end goals.
6. Is this firm going to give you actionable insights?
It’s not enough to just provide the data: A great market research firm also will deliver actionable insights. When speaking with prospective firms, ask how their research will help you make a decision. Will they just hand you the tabulations (or even just the raw data) at the end of the project and wish you the best? Or will they walk you through an informed interpretation of what the results mean regarding your primary question and objective for the research? Do they have industry expertise that will be applied to your research results to give you a deeper understanding of your customer and your market?
Examine how they phrase objectives in conversation and in the sales proposal you get. Go with a firm that frames objectives to accommodate your decision-making. Is their objective simply to perform a brand awareness study for you, or is it to understand your company’s brand health at large to identify the greatest opportunity for you to gain awareness and increase conversion?
7. What is their process for successfully collecting and analyzing data?
Since you’ll make important decisions based on the research generated, you want a firm that knows how to collect high-quality, reliable data. A good way to assess a firm’s expertise is to ask which data collection and analysis methodologies best suit your objectives. Any firm that’s worth your investment will be able to explain why in-depth interviews may be better for your needs than a quantitative survey or how a MaxDiff analysis will help you decide which features to include in a product. They will also be able to tell you how they scrutinize respondent data to ensure the highest quality.
8. How does the firm communicate with clients?
An important component of any enriching business partnership is effective communication. To that end, you want to share a strong rapport and mutual understanding with your market research team. You can gauge whether prospective firms possess this attribute by asking how they communicate with clients throughout the research project and how they deliver their results and recommendations.
Are they responsive, helpful and willing to answer questions and explain their process? Additionally, how do they deal with misunderstandings or disagreements? Studies and surveys can take several weeks, or even months, so make sure you’ve picked a firm that you can positively and productively work with for that duration.
9. Will the firm provide results in a timely manner?
If you’re preparing to launch a new campaign or release a new product, there’s a good chance you’re on a timeline. You don’t want to hold up the process because of a delay in your preliminary market research. Before hiring a firm, ask them for an estimate of how long your project will take and what factors can influence the timeliness of getting results and actionable insights? Also, check with references and see if they had a positive experience. A lack of punctuality could be an indicator that a firm is short-staffed, already has a large workload, or simply doesn’t have the right systems and processes in place for a timely, efficient delivery of research.
10. Can the firm offer added value to your company?
Market research contributes to the growth and success of manufacturers and suppliers, but it requires an upfront investment. It’s important to find a firm that provides more value than the fee they ask. There may be smaller companies or startups that can offer market research solutions that are priced on the lower end of the spectrum, but provide little value in comparison.
For example, by working with a lesser-known firm or one that doesn’t specialize in your industry, you will spend more time getting them up to speed on your industry, the challenges and trends within, your buyer personas and beyond. The caliber of a firm is directly related to the quality and value of the data you collect.
Selecting a Market Research Firm for Your Next Project
There are numerous factors to consider when selecting a firm to assist you with market research. Before you invest in a partnership, you want to vet each prospect and ensure they have the credibility, services, expertise, resources and quality controls to help you make the most of your research project.
At The Farnsworth Group, we have more than 30 years of experience creating custom market research for building and construction, home improvement, and lawn and ranch product manufacturers with over 300 research projects successfully delivered. This niche expertise ensures you get proven research solutions and insightful data to make the best decisions for your company.