How to brief a market research agency – plus free briefing template

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1. Introduction

When it comes to briefing a market research agency, the quality of the information you provide is crucial. Quite simply, the better the information, the better the proposal – and the quicker you will receive it.

This article has been compiled for anyone who is unsure what information is required in order to obtain a great market research proposal.

In it we outline the sections of the ‘ideal’ market research brief, as well as explaining within each section what information is most helpful – and why.

And don’t worry if you can’t provide all the information suggested. Whatever you can provide will act as a starting point for a conversation during which the agency.

At the end of this article we’ve also providing a link to a downloadable and editable market research agency briefing form that has been designed to collect the information outlined in this article.

2. Requirement overview

Here you should just lay out in a sentence what the research will be about and where it needs to take place. For example;

  • Qualitative research to explore a new push chair concept with UK mums
  • Survey of SME purchase decision-makers regarding IT support contracts in USA, UK, Germany and France

3.    Your company and its offer

Next, provide your agency with some useful detail about your company. For example; whether you are a B2C or B2B organisation, your location (especially if outside UK), your products or services, channels to market, customer base and key competitors.

In fact, anything that provides context that will help the agency understand you and your research needs better.

A link to your website will also be helpful.

4.    The business requirement

Before explaining your specific market research needs, it is very helpful for the research agency to understand the wider business context of the research; e.g. the business circumstances that have led to the need for this research and how the research findings will be used.

This information helps the research agency to ensure that the research approach and deliverables it recommends will not only meet your research needs, but will also be suitable more broadly.

5.    The market research objectives

This is probably the most important part of the research brief so it’s worth taking time over!

It’s where you provide a list of the project objectives and / or the questions that you need the research to answer.  Bullet points are fine and the more detail here the better!

The research agency will use the objectives you provide to identify the best research approach and develop the individual questions that it will ask in the research.

The agency will also use your stated objectives to identify if/ where it thinks there are gaps in the insights you are seeking, or whether it can usefully suggest additional objectives that could provide added value for no additional cost.

6.     Preferred approach

If you have any thoughts or expectations regarding the research methodology (e.g. quantitative / online survey or combined), its always good to include these.

It’s helpful for the research agency to understand your methodological expectations or preferences at this point, because there is often more than one way to approach a project.

And if the research agency doesn’t agree with your preferred approach, it will (tactfully!) explain why.

7.    Research recruitment profile

In this section you should provide details of the individuals who will be recruited to take part in the research.

Don’t worry if you don’t have much detail, or if you aren’t sure. Its important context for the research agency and they will build on it with you later, if required.

If its for a B2C project you can provide details of the relevant consumer segment(s); their demographics, defining attitudes, preferences, behaviours etc.  

And if its for a B2B market research project, then you can include details about the target customer segment(s); their industry sector(s), company size, locations, job titles etc.  

Respondent recruitment and incentivisation accounts for a significant portion of the overall project cost and, as a rule of thumb, the more criteria that are included in the final recruitment specification, the more expensive this element of the project will be.

As a result, its worth separating those recruitment criteria that are musthaves and those which are just nice-to-haves.

If you have an idea of the numbers you would like the research agency to recruit, add that here too.  And if you don’t, don’t worry! The agency will help you to identify the right number for your project.

8.    Timing

If you need the project to either start of finish by a certain date then let the agency know at the outset.

If the timing is tight, for example, it could affect the methodology that is selected or the extent of the research exercise that can be undertaken.

Your agency will also need to confirm that it has the necessary resource to kick-off your project at short notice.

9.    Reporting

When it comes to reporting the research findings, different formats and levels of detail will have different price tags, so it’s worth specifying what you need.

For example, if the project is quantitative, you may wish to receive data only, so that you can save on cost by doing the analysis yourselves. Otherwise, you may want full analysis and reporting.

And if the project is qualitative, the research agency will typically cost for the provision of a detailed report which includes illustrative quotes from the participants. You may also wish to have edited video footage of the research to bring to life key elements of the debrief.

On the other hand, you may prefer a shorter, more cost-effective, top line report that excludes verbatim. Its a good option if your are just interested in the headlines, or if you are under time constraints

10.    Budget

This is always a tricky one! An agency will always understand if a client prefers not to give an indication of budget.

However, it can be really helpful, because it means that you receive a proposal tailored to your budget from the outset, rather than something that is either too expensive, or too modest in scope.

11. Any other information

Here you can add any other information you think may be important.

For example;

  • Are there any other agencies involved in the project that the researchers will need to be aware of?
  • Will you or your agencies wish to view the research live?
  • Will the research agency need access to your client database for recruitment purposes and do you know if you have the necessary Data Privacy permissions to contact them

To download an editable briefing template in Word, please use this LINK

Otherwise, you can contact Brandspeak directly on +44 0203 858 0052 or at



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