How to choose a market research supplier

Market research projects are often of significant importance and can contribute greatly to the successful completion of a project, the setting or evaluation of a strategy, and in the long run to the success of a business or organisation. Therefore it is important to ensure the market research is undertaken to the highest standards and fully meets the requirements of the business or organisation commissioning it. In a supplier selection process often various criteria are used to select or rate potential suppliers. This page aims to provide some guidance on how these criteria would apply to selecting market research suppliers.


Capacity of market research suppliers can be measured in size and in capability. Size comes down to the amount of resources are available at different levels within the business, and how many staff will be assigned to a market research project. Other important aspects to consider are the availability of specific expertise within the company.

Questions that could be asked of potential suppliers:

  • How many staff does your business have?
  • How many staff will be working on my project?
  • How many other projects are they working on?
  • What resources do you have available as a back up to the staff that is working on my project?
  • How many experts do you have available to undertake the specific research tasks required for the market research project?
  • Does your company have fieldwork staff, or would you outsource this work?
  • In case outsourcing of work is needed, who would you use?
  • How do you manage knowledge about my business or project in case key staff should no longer be available to undertake the work?


The location of market research suppliers ties in with capacity, and impacts on being able to undertake the research in a cost effective manner as well as acting as a partner as well as a supplier. The cost effectiveness of the market research is impacted by the closeness of the fieldwork staff. This is most important for market research that involves fieldwork being undertaken by senior staff, such as focus groups or face to face interviews. If the staff need to travel far to undertake the research, this could increase the cost of the research. Some companies have offices in a number of locations which could mean that researchers from different offices could be involved in the market research.

For a market research supplier to be local to a business makes it easier for both parties to meet face to face on a short notice. This can help build the long-term relationship between both parties.

Questions that could be asked of potential suppliers:

  • Where are you located?
  • How many office locations does your business have?
  • If travel is required for a project, how do you charge these costs?
  • How available are you for face to face meetings?


The quality of market research is highly reliant on the knowledge of the market researchers executing it. Market researchers gain their expertise through education (most often marketing or psychology related), and can keep this update through ongoing professional development. Apart from knowledge of their trade, it is also beneficial for market researchers to have knowledge of the sector or industry the market research is applicable to. This can be gained through again education, but is more often achieved through having worked in sector or by simply having undertaking similar market research previously.

Questions that could be asked of potential suppliers:

  • What is the educational background of your market researchers?
  • How do your market researchers make sure their knowledge is being kept up to date?
  • How much experience does your business have with the type of market research that is needed?
  • Does your company employ specialist qualitative or quantitative researchers?
  • Does your company employ specialist statisticians?
  • Does your company undertake fieldwork in house, or do you use external providers for this?
  • How much experience does your business have with undertaking market research in the sector or industry?


Being able to judge the reliability of potential market research suppliers will help in understanding how well each would be able to serve for once-off projects, and also what the prospects are for developing a long term supplier relationship. Reliability is impacted by the amount of resources available within a company and how well the company is setup in terms of structure and quality management. As staff is one of the most important assets of a market research company, it is important that the company has good strategies in place to attract and keep staff. The reliability of a supplier is also visible in its financial performance.

Questions that could be asked of potential suppliers:

  • How do you manage the level of quality of your services?
  • What quality certifications does your company have in place?
  • What is your strategy for attracting and keeping staff?
  • What is your staff turnover like?
  • What was your financial performance like over the past years?
  • What is your company’s strategy for the coming years?
  • What insurances do you have in place (e.g. professional indemnity, public liability, management liability)?


Closely in with reliability in its impact on a supplier’s performance is the stability of a company. Choosing a more stable supplier increase the likelihood that market research projects are completed successfully. Building up long term relationships with suppliers can also help improve the quality of market research undertaken due to increased knowledge on the supplier side of the specific issues to the business or organisation commissioning the research. This can assist both parties in designing market research projects that better meet the needs of the company or organisation.

Questions that could be asked of potential suppliers:

  • How long has your company existed?
  • Can you provide referees?
  • What was your financial performance like over the past years?
  • How do you minise staff turnover?
  • What are your company’s long term vision and goals?


The quality of work provided is impacted by the combination of most of the aspect discussed on this page, however difficult to measure due to the nature of services provided. Because market research projects are often quite unique in nature, there are few benchmarks or non-variable aspects that can be used to measure quality on. There are however a range of certifications and quality assurances put in place by industry organisations. Quality of work can also be judged when potential suppliers are able to provide samples of previous work. Sometimes market research reports are publically available and published online for anyone to download.

The main industry body for market researchers is The Social Research Society (TRS). This organisation is based on individual membership of market researchers and provides professional development through various methods, including training, webinars and events. The Research Society also provides a Qualified Practising Researcher (QPR) qualification for experienced market researchers which requires a certain level of work experience, education and requires a test to be passed. The QPR accreditation is only provided for a year, after which the market researcher needs to show they have taken necessary steps in their professional development to maintain their accreditation.

There is also an industry association for data, insights and research companies (rather than individuals) in Australia, the Australian Data and Insights Assocation (ADIA). The ADIA represents market research companies and organisations and promotes the market research industry and works on improving the quality of market research standards and practices. The ADIA provides the ADIA Trust Mark to market research suppliers who meet strict standards. They must meet the Privacy Code and Code of Behaviour of the organisations, and hold an ISO 20252 certification. This ISO certification is an international standard for market research.

Questions that could be asked of potential suppliers:

  • How many senior staff will be involved in my market research project?
  • What role will the project leader fulfil for my project?
  • What are the roles and levels of experience of all staff who will be working on my project?
  • What work will be undertaken by each staff member involved in my project?
  • Are you able to provide examples of previous work?
  • How many TRS members does your company have?
  • Does your company have any market researchers on staff with a QPR accreditation?
  • Will a QPR accredited market researcher be involved in my market research project, and what role will they have?
  • Is your organisation a member of the ADIA?
  • Does your organisation hold the ADIA Trust Mark?


For market research services, service could be defined as all the additional activities undertaken or provided by the supplier to ensure a customer is satisfied. The activities intend to enhance the customer experience and promote repeat patronage. The activities take place before, during and after the customer’s needs are met. Service is probably one of the most difficult to measure aspects of a market research project.

Questions that could be asked of potential suppliers:

  • At what moments during the project will there be an opportunity to provide feedback on the work that is being undertaken?
  • How many of your customers are return customers?
  • Who will be my main contact during the project, and what level of involvement will they have in the management of the project?


The communication between buyer and supplier throughout the life of a market research project is essential to ensure its successful completion.

Questions that could be asked of potential suppliers:

  • How many and what kind of contact moments will there be during my market research project?
  • What opportunities are there to meet face to face and discuss the progress of the work?
  • How often and in what ways will I be kept up to date with the progress of my project?


The delivery of market research projects relate to what is being delivered, the format in which it is delivered. Some suppliers may offer strategies or tools to help distribute or communicate the results across the business or organisation. This can help increase the successful use of the market research results.

Questions that could be asked of potential suppliers:

  • How would you report on this project?
  • Can you provide examples of reports you have delivered in the past for similar projects?
  • Are you able to provide a face to face presentation of the results?
  • Can you suggest the best way for the results of the market research to be distributed or communicated within our business or organisation?


The timing of a market research project is important, which can include the various steps within the project, the delivery of the final report, and invoicing by the supplier. The delivery of the fieldwork can be important as it may need to take place before or after certain events. For example a marketing campaign evaluation could require the fieldwork to be done in the period right before the campaign activity, and very shortly after the activity has finished. The delivery of a report can be important as decisions needs to be made by the buyer of the research based on the research results.

Questions that could be asked of potential suppliers:

  • Which timelines would you suggest for the market research project?
  • When are you able to start this project?
  • Are you able to deliver the final report before [date]?
  • Are you able to undertake the fieldwork between [dates]?
  • Can you propose an invoicing schedule?
  • Are you able to invoice according to the following schedule?

Value for money

A higher price usually means higher quality, however this is not a rule. Lower prices may be more attractive initially but it may mean that during the process your supplier cannot deliver at the price point agreed. It could also be that the cheapest option turned out to be not the best solution to get the answers needed.

  • Can you provide the best solution for this project, and also an alternative solution at a lower price level?
  • Can you provide itemised costing for the various elements of the project?
  • What hourly rate do you charge for the staff working on the project?
  • What costs are included in the project, and are there any potential costs that are not included in your proposal?
  • How do you handle situations in which the costs of a project exceed what you budgeted?

Writing a market research brief

A tender process is often part of supplier selection, either in a formalised or in a less structured manner. As part of these processes often a market research brief is put together and distributed among potential suppliers. The above listed criteria and question could be used to design this market research brief, and to evaluate the responses received back from suppliers.