What Makes A True Research Partnership?

On two occasions in the past few months, I’ve given a speech to members of Forrester’s Market Research Forrester Leadership Board about vendor management best practices, a topic I’m writing a report on.[i] With market research budgets increasingly shrinking and research expectations growing, we see that market researchers need to select, manage, and measure their vendors more efficiently.

The key to success here is to develop partnerships with your key vendors. Why? Because conversations with Market Research professionals at a variety of organizations show that partnering with research vendors leads to better projects, deeper insights, and lower costs. As one of my interviewees said: “It’s about intellectual ROI: You need to invest less time for each project. You build a lot of equity. You also get more of a team thing going — to me, this is very important. You work with these people on a daily basis, so finding the right vendor and contact is critical, as we see them as colleagues.”

To understand how Market Research professionals currently collaborate with their research vendors, we surveyed our Market Research Panel earlier this year. The majority of our panelists feel that they already have established partnerships with most vendors, and two-thirds state that price is less important than quality.

This raises an interesting point, as other surveys show that although the majority of market researchers had seen a decrease in their budgets, they conducted a similar number of projects. The reason: They had negotiated lower prices from vendors. Also, lower prices can be the result of a partnership; one interviewee told us that, “In a long-term commitment, you tend to pay less for each project.”

So, what does a true partnership entail in your opinion? To what extent is price a discussion item (or deal-breaker) between partners? I’d especially love to hear from vendors on how they define a partnership and what they see as its benefits.


[i] For market research, Forrester is both a research vendor and a research buyer. For our Consumer Technographics® product, we interview more than 300,000 respondents in 17 countries globally. We outsource to multiple vendors and have a dedicated data operations team that works with these vendors.


Hi Reineke, We are most often

Hi Reineke,

We are most often used as a market research vendor, although we also are a buyer sometimes as well, and also highly value the partnerships we've cultivated over the years. Price can be a tricky subject and we always try to position ourselves as competitively as possible, however the current economic climate can sometimes make "best prices" difficult to pinpoint.

I believe 100% that just because a company is cheaper it doesn't mean they aren't better. But it also doesn't mean they are worse, either. To us, a partnership represents a relationship wherein we can openly discuss all topics, including budgets and costs, that pertain to a project's success. And we're always willing to work with a client as best we can to provide actionable research results that fit within their budget.

But we don't want to provide bad work or cut corners if the budget just isn't right. Plus, we've been burned in the past before as well, so as much as we want to be as open and understandable as possible about payment needs, we need to also protect ourselves as a business. We employ others and hire other vendors, and conducting bad business helps no one. Fortunately, if we've developed a partnership with another organization, their team members understand our position as well and we recognize that when we work together and are fair all around, then we can all continue to succeed!