Traditional market research strategies are quickly aging out of prominence. Markets today move too fast to deal with the long wait times and delays, only to uncover insights that are already outdated at the time of delivery. Some question the relevance of market research teams altogether, but that's not the answer. So, what is the answer? Fast, iterative, tech-enabled, but expert-backed research partnerships. Let’s go through the checklist together.
Finding the partner who will go the extra mile
High-quality suppliers can provide the technology and services you need to gain a competitive edge. However, finding a great partner is always easier said than done. When everyone claims to be the partner you’re looking for, how can you determine who to believe?
The truth is, your organization has specific needs that need to be addressed, and not all suppliers are created equal. Some will be better positioned to address those needs than others. Plus, you must also consider the intangibles. Even if the supplier has the technical capabilities you need, they may not have the support or expertise essential to building an effective market research program. In which case, you may need to look for additional supplemental suppliers to fill in those gaps.
For the partnership to be successful, both parties must be passionate about research. Your supplier should be dedicated to understanding your industry and business on a deep level. To make your life easier, aytm has created an agile insights partner evaluation checklist so that you can find the best research supplier for your business.
Get the agile research supplier evaluation guide here.
Step 1: Define your evaluation
The first step to comparing and evaluating partners is to start evaluating yourself. Ask yourself if you can answer the following questions about your business:
What problems are your company trying to solve?
They say that if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. Pick a target and define your goals. This is a critical part of the evaluation process. If a supplier cannot help you solve your problems, you shouldn’t be working with them.
Your goal may be addressing needs like:
- Accelerating time to market to remain competitive
- Infusing business-wide decision-making with quality insights
- Making the most of limited budgets without sacrificing data quality
- Increasing your chances of product success and decreasing barriers to innovation
Or addressing current challenges like:
- A current supplier that isn’t meeting expectations for speed, quality, or support
- Sophisticated research isn’t possible with current resources or suppliers
- Lack of transparency and flexibility in research projects
- Costly, time-consuming research that is quickly outdated
Which stakeholders need to be on the evaluation team?
Your evaluation team should be a cross-functional team, including key stakeholders representing the different business groups that will be involved in using or benefiting from a partnership with this supplier. Does that mean you and your direct team or manager? Are there other stakeholders outside of your team that will need to weigh in? It’s critical that you compile the full list of participants early on in the process and understand everyone’s role within the evaluation process.
What challenges are your stakeholders experiencing?
By understanding the challenges your stakeholders are experiencing, you can further clarify your organization’s specific needs and ensure buy-in from leadership.
What complex research functionality do you need to achieve your goals?
Agile research suppliers provide tools that allow you to survey hundreds of panelists within a few days. At this point, it can be helpful to brainstorm, “what platform features, research tests, and types of analysis would be beneficial for our team?”
What audiences do you need to reach?
Some organizations may only be interested in focusing on a relatively small subset of their target audience, while others want data from huge surveys with respondents globally distributed. This is also a technical question, and it’s essential to define your requirements in this space.
What is the ideal timeline for a research project or study?
How fast of a turnaround do you need, and what kind of service offerings do you require to hit that target timeframe based on your in-house resources?
What support and service offerings do you need?
The range of support and service offerings you may need will depend on a few things:
- The level of in-house market research expertise
- Available bandwidth
- The complexity of the research
- Familiarity with / ease of use of the platform
- Customer enablement or learning materials available from the supplier
These needs can change throughout the course of the partnership’s maturity so ideally, the partner will offer flexible support options to support you throughout your research journey.
Step 2: Evaluate agile research suppliers
Once you’ve determined your own requirements, you can then move to evaluate your options for suppliers. There are several questions you should focus on answering as you do your research on each potential supplier:
What suppliers are in the space?
Your journey will start with simply identifying what your options are when it comes to agile market research suppliers. Your initial list will be quite long.
Are they resourced and able to support a business like yours?
Then, you will start using the criteria you developed in step 1 to thin the herd based on your business’ unique needs.
Does their platform support your advanced research needs?
It is critical to ask questions about their ability to support your business and achieve your goals. Do they have flexible service and enablement offerings to help you become more self-sufficient and less reliant on their own service, this is a key benefit of a tech-enabled supplier after all.
Do they have referenceable clients that have solved similar challenges?
Once you are confident about their capabilities and offerings, it’s time to check their reputation. Speaking to past clients (especially those who have experienced similar challenges) or referencing case studies and testimonials can be a great way to to truly understand their strengths and weaknesses.
How happy are their clients?
In addition to speaking to client references, reputable review sites can offer a great deal of information about client satisfaction that can help guide your decision-making process.
Can their clients measure success?
The final questions focus on what these suppliers can actually provide to their customers. We recommend going fairly deep here to understand how the supplier thinks about their customers and market research in general.
Are they continuously innovating and improving their offerings?
Successful agility means passion, dedication, and innovation. Does the supplier have these traits?
Does this supplier’s pricing model match your budgetary needs? Are there hidden costs?
Next, take a hard look at the supplier’s pricing model with your company’s research needs in mind. Is a project by project engagement the more appropriate choice, or does a subscription make more sense? Support and services offerings also play a role in this discussion. An ideal partner will be flexible enough in their offerings to meet you in the moment of your research needs.
How secure will your data be?
Lastly, you’ll need to know whether or not the supplier has the ability to keep your data secure. In the modern, digital world, this can be a deal-breaker if suppliers aren’t up to par with modern data security standards. Involve your IT/Security team in conversations early and often.
Step 3: Build a weighted evaluation rubric
Using the questions in step 2, you may have narrowed down your list significantly. However, you need to find the best option for your needs. We recommend building a weighted evaluation rubric to eliminate the suppliers that won’t work for you. Here are some questions that can help influence your rubik's design:
- What requirements are most and least important to your evaluation?
- Which are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves?
Once you have answered these questions, you are ready to start comparing supplier capabilities against the weighted evaluation criteria.
Step 4: Validate the solution
Your weighted evaluation rubric should help you identify just a few suppliers that would be ideal for your organization. To find the ideal partner, you can take action based on the following questions:
Can you secure a pilot to test a short list of suppliers or the chosen supplier?
A pilot is where you can see these suppliers in action and truly understand their technical capabilities and passion. Ideally, you would structure the pilot to provide reliable metrics for demonstrating the success or failure of the platform and services.
Did the pilot meet or exceed expectations?
Finally, you can meet with your evaluation team to determine whether or not they were happy with the supplier’s support and whether the platform meets the technical requirements for your market research needs.
If the pilot leaned heavily into the service and support offerings of the supplier, was the evaluation team happy with the project deliverables? Did the supplier’s project team meet or exceed expectations?
Patience is key
It’s vital to remember that building an effective market research program is a marathon and not a sprint. Taking the time to evaluate your options carefully is critical. Furthermore, once you have decided to work with a particular partner, remember that trust grows over time. Despite all your work to evaluate your partner, surprises may still come up as you work together. However, as long as both partners are dedicated to continuous improvement, these surprises will deepen your understanding of your business objectives and goals.