What clients really want from their research partners

What clients really want from their research partners

iModerate Author

Oct 27, 2013

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Every service organization from law firms to design firms to research firms, value the relationships they create and maintain with their clients.These long-standing relationships create return business, referrals and help increase revenues. I have always felt that working with clients instead of working for clients will produce the best results. To me, this is what separates a vendor from partner and creates a higher net worth for both parties. While we know from our own experience about great partnerships and what makes them tick, we wanted to get a more comprehensive read on the subject. We were curious as to what a broad swath of End Clients and Agencies believe are the ingredients to creating a relationship that is not only good, but great. What does being a true partner mean to them? So a while back we took the initiative to do some research on the subject and thought we’d once again share our findings. Here’s what we uncovered:


  • While 96% say of End Clients and Agencies say they are satisfied with the relationships they have with their key research suppliers, more than half (54%) are only somewhat satisfied.

Partner Loyalty

  • That said, they have a pretty short list of go-to suppliers with more than 7 in 10 indicating they only have 2 to 5 that make the cut. Interestingly, lower revenue organizations are (less than $100 Million) more likely to have a single go-to-partner (24% say they only have one vs. 13% overall).
  • Given that, End Clients and Agencies are selective and pretty loyal to their suppliers (60% have worked with their most trusted partner for more than 5 years). It’s not surprising that 71% say they lean on them throughout the research process to recommend the right approach.

Long Lasting Relationship Characteristics

  • So, given all this, what is the characteristic that is most important to a decision to build a long-term relationship with a research partner? Smart, helpful people tops the list with 79% of people saying it’s their number one consideration.



  • But it’s not enough just to be smart and helpful, clients also want to know that the people they work with have a lot of knowledge in their business and an inherent interest in it.  (72% say this is their second consideration.)
  • When it comes to communication, nearly 6 in 10 of our respondents agree that it’s important that their research partners pick up the phone as often as they email and 40% agree that email is overused. It seems to all go back to the people—clients want to have an opportunity to talk in person when appropriate.
  • One notable point on their wish list:  68% would like their research partners to be more consultational—this especially comes to play when talking about deliverables.


After talking with clients and potential clients about how research companies can best partner with them, we were able to hone in on a few key areas that make an impact. We found that the key to servicing clients is to have smart people with knowledge of the clients’ business communicate with them effectively on a regular basis. In the end, it’s evident that the best partnerships occur when clients believe that their research company is inside their head, inside their business and interpreting every statistic and verbatim within the context of their industry landscape. It’s about their research company truly understanding what they are trying to accomplish without needing a lot of unnecessary handholding.  When that happens, suppliers have a seat at the table, enjoy the opportunity to make meaningful contributions and are part of a very selective group of researchers that client holds in very high regard.


We conducted a hybrid study (quantitative and qualitative) with individuals who hold advertising/marketing, strategic planning, market research, product innovation, or public relations jobs, work at a corporation or an agency, and had planned or managed a research project in the last few years.

We totaled 176 quant completes and 27 one-on-one conversations.

iModerate Author

The results we received from the iModerate one-on-one, in-depth conversations were much more enlightening than what we typically garner from open-ended verbatim responses. The live moderator offers us the ability and flexibility to probe deeper on certain points, enabling us to get stronger, less vague information. That unique capability has proved extremely valuable to us, and has made this IM-based platform an integral part of our research toolbox.

Colleen Hepner, VP, C&R Research