5 Rules for Hiring a Market Research Consulting Firm

Finding the right market research consulting firm can help you create the best product or service. But bigger isn't always better.

Kara Yokley is the founder of RRDS Chicago, a boutique data analytics and quantitative market research consulting firm. With a degree in applied mathematics from Harvard University and an MBA from Wharton, Yokley is a self-described “analytics nerd” with experience consulting for globally-recognized brands. 

We caught up with Yokley recently to talk about market research, data science, and the need for thoughtfulness when working with clients. 

“Businesses will always need market intelligence and market research to understand their competitive landscape, how they’re interacting with their customers, what’s working, and where they can drive improvement,” she says. 

Here are five considerations for choosing a market research consulting firm.  

1. Know What You’re Asking

Market research enables a business to make better, more informed decisions about where to allocate investments in order to drive ROI. Whether you’re thinking about launching a new product or service, acquiring a different business, or moving laterally into a new space, market research consulting firms can help. 

“Market research consultants offer businesses the opportunity to test out hypotheses in a controlled way, and before they begin making huge investments in development or trying to enter a new market or expand their marketing budgets,” says Yokley. 

What should a client do before reaching out to a market research consultant? “It’s very important to have a defined hypothesis that you’re asking the researcher to test,” says Yokley, “but you also have to maintain some openness that maybe what you’re planning to do may need tweaking along one or many vectors. It should be viewed as a learning process.” 

2. Seek Core Market Research Competencies and Curiosity

Clients should make sure the consultant has the skills and experience needed for the particular type of market research the business wants done, says Yokley. Beyond simple data collection or customer segmentation, market research is about curiosity; asking challenging questions, looking for connections that maybe other people are missing, she says. So look for consultants who possess that spark of curiosity and a willingness to ask tough, generative questions to uncover value.

3. Understand What Success Looks Like 

Success for every engagement should be defined around answering the questions the client brings to the market research consulting firm. 

“If you as a client went out and got all the relevant information you could in order to make the best business decision,” says Yokley, “whatever that final decision might be, that’s success.” 

A market research consultant can even help clients discover the right way to go about understanding the problem. 

“Some of my most successful engagements,” says Yokley, “have been where I really stepped back and asked challenging questions like, ‘are we going about this in the traditional way or are there other potential approaches we can take?’ It’s really helpful for consultants to have a broader view of how their work fits into the client’s objectives.” 

Yokley offers an example. “I had one new market entry project where the private equity client had a target that they’d acquired and they were looking at bolt-on acquisitions. Through my research, I uncovered this other kind of network that they weren’t fully aware of. Providing them with that new awareness shifted their whole way of thinking about additional acquisition targets,” delivering massive strategic value.

4. Independent Research Consultants vs. Big Brands

As the saying goes, nobody ever got fired for hiring McKinsey, but there are plenty of reasons to look beyond brand names. “I absolutely understand why clients might bring in large firms like McKinsey. Sometimes you just need that big name because you’re getting scrutiny at a board level.” But there are other times when you might have a smaller budget, but still want high-caliber work. 

“The team I’ve assembled here at RRDS Chicago includes some incredible people who came to us from McKinsey. They came because they wanted more flexibility in their lives. What that means for our clients is that they’re getting the same high caliber of consultant who worked at McKinsey, but at much lower rates.” What matters for most clients is the final work product, not the famous brand name. 

5. Flexibility Matters 

Yokley believes that working with on-demand experts offers flexibility and massive value to clients and experts alike. Finding market research consulting firms on Catalant makes it easier than ever for consultants to provide nearly unlimited flexibility. “Catalant has been way ahead of the curve in terms of the evolving future of on demand work and how people and organizations want to work.”

The pandemic has only accelerated the need for flexibility and ondemand expertise. “I get to work on these very interesting problems for excellent clients, and I’ve been able to have a tremendous amount of flexibility in how I deliver value,” Yokley says.

Let Us Help

Browse hundreds of project management consulting firms in our Expert Marketplace

Get Started