Looking for the right survey company?
Perfect! This article takes you through how to effectively choose a survey partner. Even if you don’t choose MFour, we want to help you identify the right team to work with.
Why? Well, because selecting a survey partner isn’t simple.
It used to be. In fact, in the past, survey companies basically served one function: gather then analyze data. You’d hire the survey company to send questionnaires to your consumers, then in return, you’d get a summary of the results with a list of answers in the form of quantitative data.
Today, it’s different.
The survey industry is a highly sophisticated sector. With massive changes in technology, market research can now provide actionable and accurate insights: in the form of business intelligence. It’s so much more than the old school data of the past. To see just how focused you can get with a consumer survey today, check this out.
It also means the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work anymore.
At MFour, for example, we dedicate 100% of our resources to being the best survey company for mobile research. That means we ONLY conduct research through our proprietary mobile app: Surveys On The Go. It keeps us focused, and it gives our clients a more thorough approach.
So, how do you choose from a list of hundreds, if not thousands of vendors, all offering something different? Well, we talked to our team, and here is what they came up with as the 10 steps to picking the right survey company.
Step 1: Start with the big picture
If you’re like most market research and consumer insights departments, you’re strapped for time. Between research projects, creating decks, collaborating with other departments, and putting out fires, choosing a vendor can feel overwhelming.
It doesn’t have to. Remember, the goal of looking for a vendor is to ensure they meet the specific requirements you have in mind for the research at hand. It sounds simple, but it’s worth mentioning. By keeping your big picture goals in mind, it’s really easy to weed through the “fluffy” marketing, and identify a hard hitter, who can really hit it out of the park for you.
After all, if you pick the right vendor, you don’t have to try again later.
That’s why we believe it’s a good idea to thoroughly vet out any survey company that you might work with, before you let them into your world.
Step 2: Assess your specific needs
Every survey you do will have nuanced requirements.
- Who is the target audience?
- Where can they be found?
- How many completes do you need?
- What is your time frame?
- What type of survey do you need to use?
- Will you need to do future research with these same participants?
- Do you plan on using this vendor on an on-going basis?
- What is your available budget for the project?
Keep these questions in mind as you choose your survey company. It builds on the big picture idea, forcing you to come back to the reason you’re looking for a vendor in the first place. After you assess the “must-haves” you can always go back for “nice to haves” in terms of the vendor’s capacity.
Each survey company has its own pros and cons. If you’re really struggling to choose, it may make sense to do a pilot with two different vendors. Or, consider doing it in-house to determine your needs first, before going out to the market again.
For example, if you need 100 survey completes in the next 8 hours, you’re probably best served to conduct the research in-house. If you need a survey done for very cheap, you’re probably best positioned to work with a basic online survey company. Alternatively, if you’re looking to survey consumers who have visited a specific location in the last 30 days, you’ll need to pick one that specializes in mobile, like us.
Step 3: Be sure not to fall for a “yes” vendor.
If you want truly insightful research, you need a vendor that is consultative.
A lot of market research vendors claim to be your one-stop shop for everything. They’ll take your money for any project and tell you it’s gonna work great.
At MFour, we’re focused on U.S. mobile market research. products we offer are built around our mobile survey app, so we dedicate our resources to being the best at getting consumers opinions through the app – and into your hands.
Ask us to do a basic survey in Australia and we’ll simply refer you to someone else. Ask us to conduct interviews through our survey platform without leveraging any of our location-based data, we’ll tell you that your missing out on a bigger opportunity with us.
The point is, you need a survey company that will push back because they’re looking out for YOUR best interests. That’s how you get the best results.
Step 4: Ensure high-quality data standards
There are many ways to measure the integrity of survey data.
Ideally, you’re looking for first-party data: validated data coming directly from the consumer. The consumers are 100% opted in, and know exactly how their data will be used.
Ask your vendor, where is your survey data coming from? Either they’ll tell you they have their own consumer panel, or they work with a third-party. This matters, because the further from the source, the more layers of inaccuracy and bias your survey will be routed through before providing you with completes.
At MFour, we have our own first-party panel. This means we own the survey application that your completes come from, as opposed to outsourcing it to another vendor.
Another way to check the data quality is to ask the survey company if they have a method to prevent survey fraud and if they scrub their data before reporting.
Side note: Mobile surveys have the capacity for an extra layer of data integrity because our Point-of-Emotion® surveys eliminate the common issue of recall bias.
Learn more about our quality standards
Step 5: Check their client roster and ratings
Just like a business wouldn’t hire an employee with no relevant experience, you shouldn’t hire a survey company with no ability to field your market research needs.
Checking the client roster will give you an idea of the level of quality you can expect to receive. It is also telling of their level of intimacy with your industry.
MFour works with Google, Target, PepsiCo, AT&T, ABC, Samsung, Warner Bros., Neilsen, Wendys’, Kantar, Cars.com, Bloomin’ Brands, Lowe’s, and over 1,000 clients total.
We also have the most-downloaded, highest rated survey app in the IOS app store.
Step 6: Make sure they can provide both raw data and research
Whether you have an internal team of analysts, or not, make sure the survey company you choose provides you with actionable insights – in addition to the raw data.
If you do have analysts, give yourself the option to have done-for-you research. This way, when your analysts are too busy to take on additional work, you can still “phone a friend” to get your project done.
The lighter your team, the more help you should ask for. If you don’t have analysts on staff, and the research project is fairly complex, then it makes sense to have the analysis done for you, in addition to fielding the survey.
Having flexibility either way, is really beneficial in a bind.
Step 7: Have a discovery call
Get the facts on your prospective partner.
Unless your doing a DIY project, you’re going to want to do a “discovery call”. This call allows you to dig into the details, and feel comfortable. It also allows the vendor to get acquainted with your business goals and the specific needs for your survey.
If you get a quote before the vendor understands what you’re trying to do, then they’re more than likely not acting in your best interest.
This is also an area in which the survey company should be acting as a consultant. By this point, they know your specific needs (which you established above in step 2), and can really help provide direction.
You should expect some level of probing from the vendor during this step. This is where they will dig into the details to make sure that you’re using the best survey method for the project, that your goals can be met, and ultimately that your project will yield fruitful data.
Step 8: Get a quote and compare prices (if applicable)
In market research, you often get what you pay for.
While important, depending on the complexity of the research, price shopping may not be the most effective deciding factor. For instance, if the vendor is doing something highly proprietary you’d be comparing apples to oranges, if you price them against a standard provider.
At MFour, we’re pretty transparent. We’re not the cheapest vendor, but we do feel we’re the best. Why? Our technology is unmatched and our research process is thorough. It’s why so many Fortune 100 companies choose MFour for market research.
Step 9: Test them out
As a rule of thumb, running a pilot is often the best way to begin a new relationship.
This way you can test your level of confidence in the vendor without making a massive investment. Once the survey company proves itself, you can feel comfortable working on a full-blown project together.
Step 10: Start a relationship
Assuming the initial first project went well, the best way to make use of your new market survey vendor is to build a relationship with them.
Whether you work together frequently, or not, keeping your vendor updated is in your best interest. When they know what you’re trying to accomplish, they can be proactive in finding ways to help you.
Not to mention, the right market survey company will have no problem brainstorming with you and sending you useful resources for your research, whether it’s going to end up leading to business with them or not.
Having a handful of personal relationships with high-quality market survey companies will always beat chasing and switching dozens of lackluster survey companies.