Finding the agency

Finding an agency to carry out fieldwork can be quite difficult for a company that has never conducted research before.

One starting point is to obtain the MRS publication entitled The Research Buyer's Guide. This directory is updated each year and is annotated in such a way as to give as much help as possible to the intending purchaser of research services, e.g. membership of the IQCS is shown, and an indication is given of the size of turnover of companies, since a small job is likely to be done better by a small agency. The Guide also gives an indication of what services research companies specialize in by showing in bold type those services from which they gain more than 25 per cent or over £100,000 of their income. An initial shortlist can be drawn up by going through the book and noting companies of the right size with the right kind of experience and who have worked in the industry in which the fieldwork is to be carried out.

Areas in which information is presented are:

■ Contact details

■ Establishment date

■ Parent or principal company

■ Associate companies

■ Associate memberships

■ Accredited standards

■ Total employees

■ Senior contacts

■ Research markets

Research services

■ Research locations

■ Promotional statement

The MRS website offers a searchable database of research businesses. Web address: http://MRS.org.uk

The ESOMAR website offers a similar service for international research agencies. Web address: http://www.esomar.nl

Another approach to generating an appropriate shortlist for invitation to quote is to use business contacts. Most managers will know their opposite numbers in competitive organizations or be familiar through the normal network of business contacts with other managers working in their industry. It is always worthwhile asking these people to recommend agencies that they have used. It is not necessarily the case that an agency that has done a good job for one company will do a good job for another company, particularly if the nature of the research required is different. However, such recommendations offer a starting point to the inexperienced fieldwork buyer. It is also often the case that if agencies believe they could not do a good job for a potential client they are likely to hand the enquiry on to an agency better suited to those needs.

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