For many a small business, the costs of using an agency may be prohibitive: good ones are likely to start at four figures, says Michael Warren, former director general of the Market Research Society (MRS).
But those costs should be set against the real benefits to your business of getting right the product, the retail layout or new restaurant. Good market research should pay for itself. There may also be ways of keeping costs down:
The British Market Research Association offers a free helpline and a free service through its website to help you select a market research agency. Contact three or four, outline what you need, and compare prices. Compare service too - a good agency should have detailed proposals about ways to carry out the research.
Consider an omnibus survey
Sharing the cost of the survey with other organisations, who have their questions included in the same questionnaire, can cut costs.
Be very clear from the outset about what you want to discover, whether it is testing a new product during development, gauging customer needs and people’s responses to different products, or assessing customer and staff satisfaction.
Going to a market research agency with a clear set of objectives, and a good sense of how you will use research results to improve your business, can make the agency’s task much simpler. Think about what you need to develop new products and grow your business, and properly targeted research could pay for itself.
You could do some initial research yourself, or take the plunge and spend a few thousand in the best business move you ever made.