Marketing is the lifeblood of any company, and failure to appreciate this fact may result in empty aisles bereft of customers, lackluster sales, and anemic business growth. Even knowing these facts, however, many businesses are incapable of understanding when their best marketing efforts fall short of the goal. A number of reasons might account for this cognitive dissonance.
Lack of marketing experience, the proverbial "you don't know what you don't know," leads many small business entrepreneurs to make this fundamental error. As a culture we sometimes eschew the conventional wisdom to avail ourselves of outside expertise in favor of our own opinions and actions.
That being said however, there is a role to be played by these outside agencies, which means that you need to recognize when it is time to engage the services of an external market research company to sharpen your advertising message and build your business.
Fear of Losing Control of Marketing Process
One of the primary concerns for business decision makers who choose to keep their marketing efforts in-house, as opposed to outsourcing those efforts to an external market research company, is the fear that the results will not represent company goals, objectives, or the insider knowledge of a company employee. As an expert within your industry or field, it is easy to look at the efforts of outside marketers as lacking in insight regarding what makes your business tick in terms of the information you need to successfully outreach to your buying public. Fear of losing control over the marketing process therefore serves as a cause for inaction and analysis paralysis when it comes to recognizing this critical business need.
Unfortunately, for instance, the employee you hired on to manage your IT department, and subsequently tasked with developing your marketing strategy, simply might not have the skill sets associated with achieving the marketing goals your company needs to meet to be successful. Marketing research emanating from amateur efforts can have lasting effects beyond the waste of time and resources for the effort.
Indeed, erroneous information collection efforts can result in misleading information on which poor strategic decisions are developed and implemented. Another problem associated with tasking a current team member with unraveling your marketing mysteries beyond their inability to complete the job at hand, the diversion from their normal duties can represent a lost opportunity because their original work responsibilities simply will not get completed.
Like all business decisions, a move to an external market research company will be predicated on what course of action is best for your firm's bottom line. In terms of a cost benefit analysis, will the rewards of engaging an outside research vendor for comprehensive marketing information outweigh the costs of losing creative control of your marketing message?
Selecting Your External Marketing Partner
Once a decision is reached by your company's decision makers to engage the professional services of an external marketing vendor, the selection process closely approximates the beginning of any professional relationship. While even the most casual of Google searches will display a myriad of available options, both with large and small firms, on your internet search page, you will want to fully vet the organization to see if they will meet your exact needs.
Peer recommendations, reviews, and business ratings provides a clue as to the character of your potential partner. Review their business history with an eye towards longevity and financial stability when selecting your vendor. Simply stated, a long term marketing research project can span the better part of a calendar year and you will want to make sure that your new partner is likely to be around when that final month concludes.
Once you have pared down your list of candidates, visit with each organization you are considering with detailed questions regarding the breadth of their services. Be as specific as possible when outlining your needs, and determine how they plan to keep you in the loop as they move towards your stated goals.
For instance: will they appoint hands on managers who directly keep you informed with interim reports and weekly updates as the project progresses? Will the final report be authored by the department head and lead researcher, or will the results be handed off to a junior staffer to write up the details?
Finally, assess the corporate personality of the external marketing company to help determine whether they culture aligns with that of your own for a seamless interaction between the two teams.
Specific Information Leads to Specific Outcomes
For best marketing results, you need to be clear in your objectives and transmit those goals to your outside marketing vendor. For instance, are you probing the possibility of a new product line, or are your efforts aimed at burrowing a niche into a competitor's market? This strategic vision will guide the research efforts of your outside marketers, so being as specific as possible in your requests guarantees quality results.
These goals will inform the research efforts of the team, and subsequently result in the research methods that are appropriate to your strategic visions. Options include focus groups, secondary journal research, interviews, surveys, or some combination of these options. The ultimate reliability of this data and its overall applicability to your business model is predicated on which informational gathering system they adopt.
Making the Big Decision to Outsource
Making the decision to outsource your marketing research efforts to a competent external marketing vendor can pay huge dividends with a targeted effort that aims to answer your specific marketing goals.
Knowing the proper questions to ask, and the options available for turbo boosting your informational gathering methods will make the decision to hire (or not to hire) outside professionals that much easier. Hiring an outside market research company makes sense the moment it becomes evident that you need the information and it is most cost effective to pay someone else for the heavy lifting needed to get the job done.