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Would you like the full service?

February 15, 2012

One of the big selling points of the global market research agencies is that they can provide the full service: they can take your market research project from start to finish.  People sometimes assume that because I am an independent researcher and a sole trader I can’t provide the full service. 

So I’d like to explain why I can.

First a diversion into the way that the market research industry is set up.  As is the case with many industries, market research is not a single job function in itself but a collection of job functions under a wider umbrella. 

Job functions in market research include:

  • Methodology (planning programmes of research, designing questionnaires and discussion guides, ‘sampling’ who to interview, setting quotas for who to interview)
  • Scripting (setting up questionnaires into formats appropriate for web, phone or in-person, testing scripts)
  • Field (recruitment for focus groups, telephone or in-person interviewing, supervising teams of interviewers locally, booking and managing whole surveys UK-wide, ensuring quotas are met)
  • Qualitative fieldwork (depth interviewing, moderating focus groups)
  • Data entry (entering questionnaires into analysis programmes, transcription of interviews)
  • Data analysis (cross-tabulating data, statistical analysis, ‘coding’ responses into categories)
  • Insight (interpreting data, reporting, recommendations)
  • Client management (project level and account level)
  • Plus all of the usual admin, finance and HR functions

Each of these areas has a variety of levels of seniority within it, posts from semi-skilled through graduate level, and its own separate career path where you can start at the bottom and work up.

The big market research agencies have departments dedicated to each of these elements, and if you gave them a contract to undertake research on your behalf your project would usually be co-ordinated by one or two research consultants.  This is the function that I have played (again, with increasing levels of seniority) throughout my career.

The role of the research consultant is to plan and manage the whole project, ensure client aims and objectives are met, and make the whole thing appear seamless.  They are the ones that you will brief, that will work with you to plan a methodology, that will update you on progress, and that will interpret the findings and present back to you.    

The other elements of the project are essentially sub-contracted internally to appropriate experts under each of the job functions outlined above.  Any given research project is likely to involve at least one (and probably more) person from each of the job functions, and the research consultant selects these from their global colleagues, briefs them, and negotiates around who needs to do what and when to meet the client requirements.

Although I am an independent researcher, I can still provide a full service because I can arrange to sub-contract any of these elements of the process in exactly the same way that I did when I worked at a global research agency.  As the client you get exactly the same service as you would if I worked at a research agency, because I play the negotiating and co-ordinating role, and I am your key point of contact for the project.  I’m the same person, with the same skills and experience, doing the same job in the same way that I always did, but I can pick and choose the partners that I work with to ensure that they are fit for purpose and competitively priced. 

So let me know if you’d like the full service!

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