The use of a market research agency is likely to be preferred when:

  • You have little or no experience of a foreign market and/or you are likely to experience communication difficulties (linguistic or cultural). The assistance of a market research agency based in the foreign market could be invaluable, as they should have a thorough knowledge of the language, customs and trading practices of the population concerned, and might also have useful contacts within various market or industry sectors.
  • The anticipated volume of foreign business is small. In such a case, you might employ the services of a market research agency on a one-off basis, as this would be more economical than hiring the staff necessary to perform the task in-house.
  • Your company has limited market research resources, or its resources are already committed elsewhere. Even if there is a need for only limited research, a small company may not be able to spare the necessary work force to carry it out.
  • Your firm has no point of contact in the foreign market – e.g. you are selling to a local trading house, or to an agent or distributor in the foreign marketplace, or perhaps a licensee is undertaking the distribution in the foreign marketplace. In such cases, the amount of market intelligence available to your company will be limited and a market research agency based in the foreign market will provide your firm with regular feedback on the level of consumer acceptance of the product(s) in question, possible also on competition you are likely to encounter.
  • The required research is of a highly specialised nature, e.g. motivational research. There are times when informed marketing decisions can be made only based on in-depth information about the motivation of buyers acquired through interviews with large numbers of people and analysed using sophisticated forecasting techniques. Most exporting companies do not have the expertise or work force to conduct specialised research of this nature.
  • You are exploring markets where competition is particularly fierce. The lead-time to the launch stage could be critical in forestalling competition and your firm might be able to act quicker if it had access to the resources and established contacts which only a specialist agency can provide.
  • There is a clear need for an independent and objective assessment of the market. Research agents are not likely to have any subjective involvement with the project, product(s) or the market(s) under investigation and they would not, therefore, be tempted to distort results to make them more palatable to management.

Although market research agencies are expensive, these costs are often less than that required to cover the time, expenses and travel of an in-house researcher, not forgetting the cost of office space, secretarial facilities, etc. Ultimately the decision to use either an external research agency or in-house facilities must be taken in the light of both the particular circumstances prevailing at the time and practical economic considerations.