Identifying whether your company needs a new research partner and how to plan the transition.

The use of marketing research consultants is an essential undertaking of modern businesses.  Employing research experts can help a company complete critical research projects more quickly, efficiently, and often with deeper expertise than internal resources.  Strong partnerships can be made over time, creating long-term relationships across departments and employees. 

Sometimes, familiarity can create a challenge when there is an interest in exploring new directions and ideas. Breaking from an existing research partner and moving to a new one may be perceived to be a big, potentially risky task.  This post outlines how to transition to a new marketing research partner successfully and addresses the objections that tend to delay or stop a company from making a change.

Why would you transition?

Business investments, like consulting vendors, require a periodic review to assess that the need, value, and priority for the company is still there.  When consultants become long-standing partners with a company, they can become trusted advisors to leadership and stakeholders.  This closeness to decision-makers can make objectivity difficult. 

An audit of the consultant’s work and interaction across departments should provide an understanding of the value the organization places on the work. Ultimately, the work being conducted should be making a difference to the organization.

Marketing research is powerful in that initial projects can become incremental. Each project builds on the last, creating a strategic guidance body that can be included in corporate strategy.  When research provided is not being used or referenced any longer, it’s a good indicator that it’s time to transition to a new marketing research option.  

Another indicator that a change might be needed is when the consultants hired are no longer resourced to your projects.  Instead, the consulting firm may use a team of entry or mid-level talent on your projects. Suppose the consultancy promised experienced, senior-level staff to help you gain insights into complex questions, and you now rarely interact with those individuals. In that case, it may be time for a switch.  The marketing research consulting firm should directly impact the company’s success. 

What to consider when transitioning

Once the decision to change marketing research consultants has been made, the following factors should be considered when selecting a new consultant.

Can the research efforts move in house?

Does the internal research team have the capacity to support research endeavors or the option to hire an internal team to undertake the research?  Carefully consider the expenses related to building a team – do you have the necessary software, will you need to hire a vendor to deploy surveys, tabulate the data, etc.?

What research is not completed yet?

Are there research projects currently in field that need to be completed or require a handoff that should be outlined and decided?   A need to pause and re-evaluate with the next consultant might be prudent if a project started recently.  Deciding to continue and complete vs. stop and re-evaluate will depend on the study’s complexity and timing.

How much of the research is left to start?

If the consultant is working on a roadmap or priority list of research projects, review the outstanding projects and get an assessment of the pre-work or setup that may have been completed and invoiced.  This might help in organizing the exit timeline. You might be able to complete projects that were started but not yet scheduled before you change partners.

What did we spend on research in the last year?

Along with the roadmap of incomplete projects, the opportunity to start with a new consultant offers the chance to dig into the budget.  Did you under or overspend on the research, and if so, why did it happen?  This assessment will benefit you in discussions with the new marketing research consultant when reviewing budgets and project costs.

What are the company’s upcoming plans?

There is no ideal time to change consultants, but aligning with the company’s annual planning can provide a logical starting place.   As the organization begins to look ahead to next year’s priorities, goals, and investments, the conversation should include the role marketing research can play.  Including this item in the strategy sessions can provide guidance on research that might be needed going forward and aid in searching for a new research firm.

Transitioning marketing research consulting is not a one-size-fits-all process.  It requires both the ability to recognize a change is needed and a plan to navigate the transition.  Socratic Technologies, a marketing research consulting firm with nearly three decades in business, has helped assess and support organizations moving research projects and has managed the development and implementation of marketing research planning.   If you wish to learn more about how Socratic can help create a marketing research plan, send us a message, and we will be happy to have a conversation about how we might help.