15 Questions to Answer Before Starting Marketing Research (Part Two)

By Michelle Auda, Project Manager, Polaris Marketing Research

Are you interested in doing some marketing research? Before contacting a marketing research company, you will want to prepare by first gathering some key pieces of information. Most marketing research firms will need the answers to these basic questions before they can make recommendations and properly price your project.

Here are the final 8 of the 15 questions you should know the answers to before you call Polaris (or any marketing research company). If you would like to see the first 7 questions, please refer to the August 2010 issue of MR Perspectives on our website (

Sample (continued from August MR Perspectives)

How many records are in your sample file/list?

  • The answer to this question will directly impact how many completed surveys you can expect to get. A good rule of thumb is to estimate an approximate 10:1 sample to complete ratio. So, if you want to get 100 completed surveys, you will need about 1000 good sample records.

  • It is important to keep in mind that you may have duplicate or invalid records that you are not aware of. Even if your list is updated and well managed, there are likely some �bad� records that will need to be removed.

In what file format is the sample?

  • Is your sample file already in an easy-to-manage format? Most firms prefer a spreadsheet format like Excel so they can easily sort and manage the list.

  • If the list is being put together from various sources and not available in spreadsheet format, no need to fret. Most marketing research firms can take care of reformatting the list. Just be sure to allow extra time in the process for the list to be assembled.


In what format would the final report best suit your needs?

  • In the old days of marketing research, reports were thick and bulky (�research by the pound�). Now, PowerPoint reports are often preferred so clients can dismantle findings and distribute as they see fit.


Do you want to incorporate any prior research into the new project?

  • If so, be sure to include this in the project details so questions can be aligned as needed to enable comparison.

Are you interested in having any advanced analyses conducted?

  • Many clients have driver analyses, segmentation, cluster, conjoint, MaxDiff, or other advanced analyses conducted. If you know you would like this implemented, be sure to tell the marketing research firm so they can include this option in the price.

Translations: Will you need the survey translated into multiple languages?

Will the research be blind?

  • If the goal is to assess brand awareness, the research will likely be conducted blind. Blind means that your company will not be identified as the research sponsor so an accurate measure of awareness can be obtained.

  • If you would like to conduct customer satisfaction or other type of research, your research may not be blind. In general, response rates are better with non-blind studies.

Will you offer an incentive to respondents to encourage participation?

  • This is especially helpful in research with low-incidence populations, where each respondent is precious.

Keeping these questions in mind will help keep you on track and ensure you get a marketing research project that will be actionable and insightful. And if you are comparing bids, this information can make sure you get proposals you can easily compare.

Some of the free or low-cost online survey tools may also look attractive to you. Before committing to that or any path, take all options into consideration. In the end, the time you spend on do-it yourself research may be worth the money you spend on a professional research consultant and partner.

And whatever path you choose: don�t let your work sit on a shelf! Put it to good use and consider implementing a regular tracking program to see if you are progressing as expected.

Michelle Auda is a project manager for Polaris Marketing Research. In addition to managing projects and client relationships, she is also responsible for overseeing a team of data specialists for several important customer satisfaction ad hoc and tracking research studies.

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