We all know how to evaluate a marketing research firm for an FMCG project, white goods project or a consumer brand. But when it comes to marketing research project related to government/public sector projects the selection criteria changes and there is little written about it.
I think the following guide by ESOMAR on how to commission a marketing research project is quiet comprehensive. Plus this one on “How to hire a marketing research company” is also fairly practical. But in my opinion, the rules of the game change when a project for public sector is evaluated.
Here is the checklist of basic elements the marketing research or the consumer insight manager should look for
- MR (Marketing Research) agency’s background (Liaison with ESOMAR, International Affiliations)
- Comprehensiveness of Proposal
- Understanding of the agency of your research objective. (HINT: look for areas where you can spot whether the agency is still treating your research objective as a private sector project or they understand that for you it is more about consumer and there is limited focus on competitive intelligence)
- Sampling Methodology
- Survey Instrument
- Quality Controls
- Analysis and reporting (Try and probe further here; maybe the agency is considering including variables raised by EFQM and/or other excellence related authorities. Maybe the agency is proposing to look further into your strategic plan so that they can align the results according to your performance reports. If yes, then this agency should be given a higher weightage as they are trying to display their understanding of public sector excellence models.)
- Previous Experience: If the company has already worked with public sector within your country then chances are that they understand public sector reporting cycles and success criterion.
- Key personnel: Look at the CVs of people working for your project, see if key personnel have worked with UN, Government Sector and/or Social Research projects
- Quality Standards: Pay close attention to this section, most marketing research agencies might not put their details but this should be a make or break element for the project.
In case you are commissioning a large scale project, and you are meeting the teams in person make sure you rate the team on the following parameters
- Project management skills: Does the team understand the importance of thorough project management approaches. How effective are their gateway approval processes, how are the evaluating and managing their risks
- Flexibility: How flexible the team is, remember day in and day out these people sell projects to FMCG clients. Their prime focus is to provide competitive intelligence and in most (if not all) public sector marketing research projects the key is consumer for public services and his welfare. This is a very alien concept for someone who is trying to identify consumer’s consumption motivation all the time
- Relevant Experiences: If some of the key personnel have already handled similar assignments then it should be easy for you understand the terms, jargons and objectives of a public sector client. If that is the case, try an explore the experience of that personnel and read his body language if you observe sign of disgust or dissatisfaction then be aware of the fact that you will have difficulties in handling this member of the team.
- Check Alignment: Check how aligned and attuned the research company is with public sector center of research. Sometimes even basic definitions like demography are represented differently across public and private sector.
Here are some selected MR companies affiliated with ESOMAR that are working in United Arab Emirates (Dubai / Abu Dhabi)
Best of luck for your projects – Ayesha Saeed