There is no underselling it: market research is a key element for any successful company. It is the foundation behind business decisions – or at least, it should be the foundation. Without the necessary research in place, an organization can quickly make costly, damaging moves that harm everything from sales numbers to public perception.
Due to the importance of market research, a lot of businesses go to those extra lengths with this aspect. They can do this by hiring a market research consultant.
However, should your company do the same? This guide will help you to answer that question. We first explain what a market research consultant does, the pros and cons of hiring one, and so much more.
Let us begin!
What is a market research consultant?
A market research consultant is responsible for the development and refinement of an organization’s marketing strategies. As the name suggests, this task is done by putting in extensive work in the field of market research.
This market research is comprehensive so that a company can better understand not just its customer base, but also its competitors and the industry in general. They will utilize an assortment of tactics to produce accurate research results. This includes using primary research methods like interviews and surveys, as well as secondary research such as website analytics and competitor performance numbers.
Market research consultants can provide broad assistance across all areas of market research. However, you will find certain consultants who specialize in a certain industry or focus area. As an example, you could find a consultant who is an expert in the technology field, whereas others could specialize in consumer goods.
Duties of a market research consultant.
The ability to gather and collate analytics. This could be from the likes of website stats, social media impression numbers, and competitor conversions.
Conduct interviews and surveys. These are done with everyone from customers to stakeholders. Information gathered from these interviews/surveys is used to learn more about their tastes, preferences, and requirements for your business, depending on the questions asked.
Perform focus groups to gather direct feedback about new products or services prior to general release. These focus groups will include target consumers, where they will ask them in-depth questions about different features and where they feel improvements can be made.
Study data to identify emerging market trends. This is achieved by analyzing search trends and demographic data. The latter will include population growth rates, household income levels, age distribution, and much more.
Put together reports that use the market research data they have collected and analyzed. These reports are produced for stakeholders and other business employees, giving them an easy way to visualize and understand the data. They can then use this to develop strategies to achieve their business goals, whether that is boosting sales, reducing costs, or enhancing customer satisfaction.
Present findings at meetings. These meetings can be with potential clients or current clients, and they can be used to inform them about market conditions based on the consultant’s findings. They can then use this information to make decisions for the future.
What are the pros and cons of a market research consultant?
You understand the work that a standard market research consultant does for a business, but that alone is not enough to start thinking about hiring a market research consultant. After all, there are various aspects to ponder – both positives and negatives – before you go all-in on the consultant bandwagon.
To help you understand these aspects, below are the main pros and cons to think about when hiring a market research consultant.
The pros of a market research consultant.
First, let us focus on the positives. Here are the main reasons behind why you should hire a market research consultant for your business.
Get the market research you need.
It is the most obvious point, but it is also the only place to start when talking about the positives. Ultimately, you are hiring a market research consultant for one overriding reason: to gain the market research you need.
When you bring a consultant into your business, the hope is that they will be able to take your market research efforts to the next level. An experienced consultant will know how to cover all the bases. They will know – and utilize – every market research tactic available, from analysis of customer reviews to conducting employee interviews.
With this extra effort, your business will ultimately benefit. More accurate market research results equals more informed, productive business decisions. Think about it. If the added research helps to identify a new opportunity for your company, one that is currently underutilized by your competition, this can supply you with a new profitable avenue that is largely uncontested.
Related: Market Research Strategies Compared
Lowers investment risk.
For a business to be continually successful, it must take plenty of risks. They need to react to change, movements made by the competition, growing trends, and so on. If they react the wrong way, it could lead to significant problems – and lost profits.
The problem is that reacting the right way can be difficult without directions. Imagine trying to travel across the country without an app or map. Although it is possible to achieve this goal, it can lead to a lot of lost time, money, and resources when not using guidance. This is the same when trying to make business decisions without market research.
Can you make the right decision without concrete market research in place? Yes. However, a large heap of luck is often necessary for that to happen. With a consultant putting in significant effort into your market research, this helps to minimize the risk of your future business decisions.
This is particularly important when it comes to major business decisions. Imagine you are bringing a new product to market.
A lot of research is necessary to avoid all the pitfalls that exist. You need to iron out issues that are found by product testers. You must include the most in-demand features from potential customers. Oh, and there is another vital point: you have to know if there is actually demand for your planned product release.
Strategize more effectively.
A market research consultant is responsible for putting together comprehensive reports that are built on their research. With these reports, your business is in a better position to be more effective with its strategies.
After all, these reports can cover a wide variety of subjects. They can be about new product releases. They could be about the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. They might be about trends that are currently emerging. With so much data available, you can learn much more about, well, everything that is related to your business.
The more data and information you have in your hands, the better the chance you have to develop strategies that achieve your business goals.
Stay ahead of the competition.
You want to be the best in your industry, which is of course the overall goal of any business. The desire is to sell more products, boost brand awareness, and generate greater profits. Yet, to make this a reality, it is essential you stay ahead of the competition. Let your rivals get in front, and this will seriously hamper your company’s visibility and sales numbers.
To stay ahead, you have to try and gather every advantage that is available. Some advantages are small, and others are big. Hiring a market research consultant certainly falls into the latter category.
With a market research consultant, you have the foundation to continually innovate and improve what you have to offer. The consultant not only understands how to gather those findings and insights and put them into easy-to-read reports, but also uses them to boost your company’s offerings – and stay above your competitors.
The cons of a market research consultant.
Sadly, it is not all roses. There are a couple of notable disadvantages when it comes to bringing a market research consultant on board.
It is expensive.
This is the one negative that stands head and shoulders above any other. If you want to enlist a market research consultant, you have to be prepared to splash the cash.
Even if you are exploring the possibility of hiring an entry-level consultant, the annual salary will typically set you back over $50,000. With that said, going with a newcomer is not exactly the wisest option. You typically want to enlist a consultant who has ample practical experience and knowledge in the market research sector – and that will cost you even more.
You can further reduce the expenses if you decide to outsource rather than go with an in-house hire. With outsourcing, you can pick and choose when to perform market research, which means you could wait months before performing an extensive research project. However, even outsourcing to a specialist consultant firm can eat up a lot of your finances in one go.
Prepare to wait.
Market research is not something that can be done overnight. Okay, there are certain elements that can be done relatively quickly, like gathering website analytics. A lot of time is necessary for these analytics to then be analyzed, where they can be used to put together a strategy and then execute said strategy.
While a consultant can generally crack on with secondary research sources, this is not the case with primary research. A lot of organization and planning is necessary. Creating surveys and conducting interviews is a time-consuming process. There is also plenty of time needed to gather responses from these surveys and interviews, let alone gathering the data and turning this into something worthwhile.
Admittedly, this negative is applicable even if you do all of your market research in-house without a consultant. However, do not believe the process will be sped up considerably if you bring in a market research consultant to handle this side of your business.
No guarantee of success.
You have hired a market research consultant. Now you can sit back and wait for the results to roll in, right? Well, not necessarily. It is true: market research can be beneficial for your business. That said, it is not a guarantee for success.
The research will typically cover a fragment of your target market. If you have tens of thousands of potential customers, for example, even the best consultant will only be able to get a fraction of these to complete a survey. The result: you fail to gain a full – and possibly fair – representation of your target market.
Furthermore, the research could also be inaccurate. A quality market research consultant will try and minimize this possibility, of course, but it can still occur. For instance, a focus group about a new product could zone in exclusively on the positives of said product – and this can include their intention to purchase it upon release. However, this might not necessarily translate to future sales. A small focus group could only supply basic, inconclusive data and paper over potential negatives.
How do you hire a market research consultant?
You have decided to pursue the hiring of a market research consultant, but before you write up that job description, there are a few points you need to consider. These include:
Areas of expertise: It is easy to think that you simply need to hire any market research consultant. However, these consultants often specialize in certain fields. As an example, you could come across a market research consultant that possesses a strong background in the IT industry – along with specific resources, tools, and networks. A consultant that matches up to your industry will always be the best available fit.
The ability to follow instructions: You are hiring a market research consultant for one main reason: their expertise. Naturally, they will know more than you about the different elements of market research. You would have to be rather arrogant to think otherwise – it would be like believing you have more knowledge about medicine and anatomy than your doctor! However, their market research expertise does not supersede the ability to follow your instructions. If you have set instructions and a certain methodology for your market research project, they should follow these as told.
Responsiveness: It can be difficult to assess the responsive nature of a market research consultant prior to hiring, but this is an aspect that cannot be overlooked. Questions and requests will often be fired in the direction of your consultant on the regular. The longer it takes for these to receive responses, the more it will ultimately cost your business in terms of time, money, and added risk.
In-house or outsource: The main focus right now could be on an in-house hire for a market research consultant. With that said, there is also the option to outsource this task to a specialist consultant firm or freelancer. There are positives and negatives for either option. For instance, if your market research efforts will only be intermittent, it doesn’t make sense to have a permanent full-time employee on the books. Make sure to assess all angles before deciding on one or the other.
Once the aforementioned points have been covered, you can move forward with the hiring process. If you opt to outsource the work, the task is as simple as doing a relevant Google search, putting together a shortlist of potential market research consultant firms, and analyzing which is the best fit for your requirements.
How to hire a permanent market research consultant.
Write a job description: The first step is to produce an accurate job description. Make sure you avoid skimping on the details. You want to ensure you attract the right applicants for your job opening. This also includes highlighting the perks of working for your company. Salary is the main factor, yes, but it is not necessarily the deciding one. High job satisfaction, particularly for a demanding role like a market research consultant, is imperative for prospective hires. For help with writing a job description, you can always take a peek at similar job descriptions.
Review applications: After a few days, you should have a sizeable collection of applications that have landed in your inbox. Now it is time to review these applications, pick out potential candidates, and disregard the rest (preferably with a gentle rejection email). There are various points to look for when adding a resume to the “yes” pile. These points include the necessary experience and skills for the job, longevity in previous roles, and quantitative evidence of their prior achievements. Also, do not forget to check for attention to detail via their resume, such as present spelling errors or grammar issues.
The interview process: If you are hiring for an entry-level position, going straight to face-to-face interviews can be suitable. However, for something more demanding, like a market research consultant, it is wise to go with at least a phone screen or initial video interview. This way, you can see if candidates match up to your job requirements and accurately represent their resumes. Afterwards, you can pick out the top three, four, or even five most promising candidates for a more in-depth, in-person interview. To get the information you require, ask questions that are strategic in revealing their personality traits, enthusiasm for the job, and qualifications and skills.
Check their references: Those references should not only simply sit on their resumes. It is important you use these references to gain more information about your selected candidate. A potential employee might excel with their resume and in an interview setting, but their actual work could tell a different story. References provide you with further insights, along with being a way to verify their skills and past experience.
Make the hire: The final step is hiring someone to fill in the role of market research consultant. This can be more difficult than it seems, particularly if there are multiple candidates available that seem like an excellent fit. However, after analyzing everything from their resumes to references, you should be able to pinpoint one candidate that stands out from the rest. Then it is simply a case of making them an offer for the job and hoping they will accept.
Hiring an in-house market research consultant is not too difficult. With that said, it is also not a hire you want to rush or get wrong. We have already highlighted it is an expensive addition to any team. The average annual salary for a market research consultant goes beyond $85,000, so it can be an expensive mistake if you get it wrong.
Of course, you may not have to enlist a consultant for your market research needs.
Is a market research consultant needed? How to do it on your own.
Market research is essential, that much is obvious at this stage. However, what if you cannot justify adding a market research consultant to your team? What if this type of hire goes beyond your budget?
Fortunately, you can be effective in your market research efforts without specialist help. It is possible to complete this task with your company’s current resources.
With that said, the importance of market research means it is not something that can be done half-heartedly. A hefty amount of knowledge and planning – along with the right selection of tools – is necessary to do it all in-house.
If you decide to do it on your own, then consider the following:
Understand your goal.
Before anything else, the first step is simple: you need to know why you are deciding to conduct market research.
There are many different reasons that can be behind this decision. You could be trying to refine your marketing efforts. You might be looking at what improvements can be made to a current product. You may want to discover more about what your competitors are doing.
Either way, it is essential you have a defined goal before you set out on your market research adventure.
Pick your target.
Miss your target, and your research efforts will effectively be null and void. You ultimately need to gather your research from the right sources. Say you run a pastry business. You would not start looking at customer reviews for local butchers to see how you can improve your product range.
Okay, that is an obvious example. Yet, the general theory is one you need to follow. Pick the wrong target – in this case, customer base – and you will not be able to gather the data you seek.
Sometimes you have to be specific when aiming at a target. This can include focusing on certain demographics like age and location. The more precise you are with the target you select, the more valuable the results you will ultimately gather.
Know your market research types.
When it comes to market research, there are various routes you can take to gather the data you seek. The types of market research cover both primary and secondary research, and they include:
- Focus groups
- Social media listening
- Customer reviews analysis
- Sales data analysis
- Field trials
Depending on the end goal of your market research, you may only have to use one or two of these methods. For example, if you are trying to find the sweet spot when releasing a new product, this could be achieved with a combination of field trials and surveys.
However, a comprehensive market research strategy is one that incorporates all of the above – and more. After all, an experienced market research consultant would make use of every option available.
There are various tools available to assist with your market research efforts. One of the most effective is GapScout.
This tool, which utilizes AI technology, makes easy work of analyzing customer reviews. Whether they are from past customers or left for your competitor’s products and services, these reviews are home to some of the most valuable data around. They detail what is and is not working, areas for improvement, and so much more.
But have you ever tried to go through each of these reviews, one by one, to locate the useful information? It is a chore that is more difficult than it seems. It also eats up a lot of time to do it correctly.
With GapScout, you can transform this type of research, taking it from a taxing task to an effortless one. The software goes through all the selected reviews on your behalf, picking out common themes and nuggets of gold that are easy to miss when done manually.
The result: not only are the results more accurate, but you can also complete this part of your market research in a fraction of the time it would normally take.
The costs associated with hiring a market research consultant can quickly look out of place when matched up against Google Trends. There is one big reason for this: Google Trends is entirely free to use.
Even though there is no price tag associated with this tool, it is one of the most effective around for market research. This is particularly the case if you are putting in the research for, you guessed it, trending topics. With Google Trends, it is possible to see what people are searching for, right now, through the biggest search engine on the planet.
Finding out which keywords are hot right now can be beneficial for various reasons. You can find out what trends are climbing – and which are disappearing. This information could be helpful for everything from product development to producing content for your marketing strategies.
You already know the importance of social media and content marketing when it comes to promoting your business. Well, BuzzSumo allows you to gain a in-depth insight into these aspects. You can learn about the posts, shares, blogs, and engagement of your targeted audience. This then helps you to understand what they care about and makes them tick.
With this knowledge about content metrics like blogs and social media posts, BuzzSumo helps to be the basis behind your own content marketing strategy. The result is, hopefully, the platform to build your own high-performing content across the marketing channels you use. Going viral requires a hefty portion of luck, yes, but the right foundation is also necessary to hit the heights.
We could be here all day listing different tools for different market research functions. However, surveys are one of the most effective – and popular – methods for gathering primary research. As such, it would be remiss of us not to mention the all-powerful SurveyMonkey.
With SurveyMonkey, it is possible to create and distribute surveys with ease. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of this tool is the ability to collect and analyze data. With its graphic-based reporting features, it is easy to make sense of the responses received via your surveys, ensuring you can make informed business decisions.
If you are searching for a free alternative, Google strikes again with its Google Forms tool. While it is not quite as feature-packed, it is fine for your basic survey needs. More extensive survey projects, however, are best served by using a comprehensive tool like SurveyMonkey.
Revise and refine.
Market research is not a one-and-done task. That should be obvious by now. This is a process that should be conducted on a regular basis. Furthermore, it is a task that is completed across a wide range of subjects to pluck information from different sources to bolster your company’s decision-making.
As a result, you should always take the time to learn from the findings each time you perform a market research project. This project type is not easy – that is why you are looking into the possibility of hiring a consultant in the first place. If you are just starting out, you will make plenty of mistakes as you go along.
Rather than be frustrated by these mistakes, use them as a learning experience. You can use these experiences to revise and refine your future market research efforts. By doing so, you can generate greater success – and more productive results – with each market research project you complete.
Put your findings into action.
There is no point in completing any market research if you do not actually use these findings. Instead of wasting all of that effort and extensive research, it is essential you put all of this analysis into action.
Ultimately, the main goal is to take these findings, analyze them, and see how they can help to enhance your business. This could be to assist with everything from refining your marketing processes to product improvement.
Rather than box up all of your market research to use “later,” act straight away. The longer you hold off doing so, the less relevant your research will be. For example, you might have discovered an emerging trend during a market research project six months ago. The problem is that now you have revisited it, that trend has already disappeared and returned to irrelevancy for your industry.
It can be all too easy to hold off and play it safe. Instead of doing this, be proactive and put your research into action.
Related: Best Marketing Opportunities
So, should you hire a market research consultant?
The main question posed by this guide was, ‘Should you hire a market research consultant?’ So, should you go down this route? The answer: ‘Maybe.’ Yes, this is a cop out. Sorry! However, the answer is dependent on your circumstances.
If you have an expendable budget that is open to a new hire, it could be wise to bring in a market research consultant. This is the perfect way to kickstart your market research efforts.
With an expert taking the reins, they will be able to push forward and generate the research you desire. This will be quicker than doing it on your own, as this will typically be a process of trial and error as you get to grips with all the different processes and methods.
On the other hand, market research on your own comes with a number of benefits. The most notable, of course, is that it is a lot cheaper than hiring an employee or consultant firm. Yes, you do have to sacrifice time if you are doing it completely on your own, but you could even do this research without spending any money. Although the more comprehensive, feature-packed tools will often cost you a little bit of cash, it is nothing compared to a full-time hire.
Speaking of those tools, the likes of GapScout and Google Trends help to make market research a lot easier than it can initially seem.
By using tools that are built for market research, most of the work is effectively done automatically. The result is that you reduce the amount of time and effort necessary for your research projects. For this reason, it can even make it seem redundant for your business to hire a market research consultant.
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