Finalizing market research budgets

Jackie Anderson [Posted by Jackie Anderson]

It's that time of year when many market researchers are going cross-eyed staring at the latest version of their budget. The 2010 wish-lists have been replaced with financing realities and many of us are forced to make tough calls on what will survive. If you're like many of us, your visions of 2010 start with a laundry list of "I'd-like-tos". "I'd like to try using an online community next year." "I'd like to introduce more innovative techniques in our online surveys." But too often those wishes are juxtaposed with budgets that remain flat or decrease year-over-year. While the initial reaction to the prospect of living with last year's budget may be to keep things the same there can still be room for innovation. We tackled a similar issue in our research when the impending recession was looming near. But whether you're dealing with budgets in a recession or simply trying to free additional dollars to innovate next year here are a couple of easy things you can do:

  • Consolidate vendors across teams. Do you have internal teams that run their own surveys? If so, find out what vendors they're using and then try to consolidate. Most vendors will offer bulk-rate pricing that can save you money on every survey complete you log. If your survey usage is splintered throughout the organization there could be huge savings you've missed here.
  • Commit to the entire year. Vendors are also big fans of knowing there's definitive business in the pipeline. If you know you're going to run at least 4 customer sat surveys next year commit to these up front with your vendor. In return, ask for preferential pricing that not only applies to those 4 surveys but any additional surveys that you may add on.
  • Maximize survey space. Do you field multiple surveys for different teams? By planning out your internal teams' survey needs for 2010 you may be able to consolidate surveys. Instead of having your team manage twenty 10 minute surveys you could be running ten 20 minute surveys. This translates not only to survey cost savings but also freed-up time for your team.
  • Re-examine tracker studies. Oftentimes we fall prey to the repetitive nature of tracker studies and automatically include them every year. However, sometimes traditions need to be broken-or at least re-examined. Perhaps the quarterly tracker can be modified to be run bi-annually. At first, people might balk at the idea of doing something different but reconfiguring these surveys can free up valuable space and budget. Many consumer trends aren't changing as quickly as they once were when we were dealing with the explosive growth of the Internet. So, a quick review of how often numbers really need to be updated can uncover new opportunities.

These are only four quick items that can end up saving enough money to fund additional surveys. There are a whole host of creative ways to maximize budget that we've employed when helping clients during this challenging time of the year.  I'd also love to hear about the other tactics you've employed to maximize the budget you're working with.


re: Finalizing market research budgets

Hi Jackie, I would worry that the first three items in your list might save money, but represent less value for money.To quickly visit the points above:1) Not all vendors are the same, a single vendor solution might work less well with one or more of the company's teams. The one vendor solution loses the agencies knowledge and ability to deliver specific departmental value. Also, vendores differ on what they are expensive or cheap for. For example, one company may be very good value for large samples, but expensive for marketing sciences (e.g. if it has to buy the marketing sciences in), another company (with an in-house marketing science guru) may be cheaper for advanced work but expensive for large simple project - consolodate discounts won't necessarily compensate for inter-project differences.2) If you commit to the whole year the supplier will typically only be fired if they are aweful. But if each project is tendered separately, the agency will have to delight you in order to win the projects. If you want to be very hard nosed, you can even tell all those tendering for projects 2, 3, and 4 the price that won the previous tender.3) 20 ten minute surveys are likley to generate better data than 10 twenty minute surveys. There is plenty of evidence that longer surveys (and 20 minutes is too long) encourge click-through behaviour.4)See if tracking can be reduced, YES! I completely agree.Note, I am not saying 1-3 WILL reduce value, but care needs to be taken.What else would I suggest?a) asking suppliers what changes to a project's objectives or methods would make it cheaper. Then assess whether these changes create better value for money.b) try to reduce the number of projects, are they all really going to result in better decisions? If you have 20 ten minute surveys, perhaps try to have 10 ten minute surveys and 5 twelve minute surveys, and live without some stuff.c) Consider buying the fieldwork direct and just buying the project management and analysis services from a full-service agency, or even using a consultant for this role*.d) Assess project deliverables. Are you actually using them, if not, don't buy them. If you don't read the tables, don't buy them. If you never use the online reportal, don't buy it.e) Once a year bring all your trusted suppliers in, along with the internal users of reseach and look at what changes could deliver better value - oh, BTW don't let the supplier's charge you for attending this.* In a spirit of transparanecy,I ought to flag up that I am a consultant, so my recommendation about using cosultants instead of full-service agencies could be seen as creating an 'interest'

re: Finalizing market research budgets

Re-exmaining trackers is key--good point!Also, take the time to really think about how much data--and in what form--your audience will use? Nothing is worse than spending real time and $$$ on a project, only to have it be ignored.Does your audience like data? Do they usually pay more heed to qualitative or quantitative results? Do they prefer big studies with lots of oomph, or more bite-sized approaches that may be easier to digest? I blog about this last point here:

re: Finalizing market research budgets

Ray, you bring up some good points. I would hope that in evaluating any changes (methodological or vendor)we as market researchers would do our due diligence and evaluate all the evidence at hand. Of course sometimes there are exceptions to opportunities (needing to use a certain vendor because of a unique strength for example) but there are also lots of opportunities, especially when you're working with trusted vendors.Kathryn-I also think your point is extremely important. Understanding your audiences and what they will respond to is so important! Great call!

re: Finalizing market research budgets

Two other good reasons to consolidate to one survey-tool vendor:1) Moving to central panel management for your internal research ensures that you are not oversurveying your customers, resellers and other key constiuencies.2) You will be surprised to discover similar, redundant survey efforts. Consolidation to one enterprise feedback management platform will let you streamline those efforts and eliminate some extraneous survey projects.