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March 30, 2021

Why don’t research firms conduct research on themselves?

We’ve all heard the saying that “The cobbler’s children have no shoes”… which means, in business terms, that some companies are really good at doing things for their clients, but not so good at doing those same things for themselves.

And there’s no escaping that predicament in the Market Research industry.

For the nine years we’ve been in business, we’ve worked with scores of market research firms across the U.S. and around the world… and with relatively few exceptions, none of these firms conduct any research on themselves. Specifically, they’re not doing any post-project customer satisfaction surveys.

When I broach the subject with these firms, I get the same kinds of responses that they get when talking to a potential client that doesn’t do much marketing research:

  • “We used to do them… but we don’t anymore. I’m not really sure why we stopped.”
  • “I’ve been at this a long time… I know we’re doing a good job.”
  • “We’re too busy.”
  • “No need – our clients tell us afterward that we did a good job.”

Really? Those are some pretty weak excuses. What are you afraid of?

I submit that doing post-project surveys are critical to the health – and growth – of your firm. These surveys will help you both operationally and with your business development. Here’s how:


  • If you are specific enough with your questions, your clients will tell you what, where and how your current processes and methodologies can be improved. Listen to the them and, over time, you’ll get better at what you do. As a bonus, when your clients realize that you’re actually listening to them and implementing their suggestions… you’ll cement your relationship with them.
  • Similarly, ask specific questions about your team members (project managers, analysts, etc.) and you’ll have the ammo you need to train and develop your staff to take better care of your clients.
  • Use the results to hold management accountable. And maybe even to determine raises and bonuses. Without this sort of objective feedback, how do you know what kind of job they’re really doing?

Marketing & Sales

One of the most difficult things to do in business is to convince a new potential client to do business with you the very first time. In order for them to “take a chance with you,” they need proof that you can do what you say you can do. The results of these customer satisfaction surveys provide that proof.

  • These days, who doesn’t look at online ratings before selecting a restaurant for dinner or making a purchase on Amazon? Create a 5-star system (or other reporting scale) to share publicly what your clients say about you.
  • Get rave reviews back from a client? Great! Then ask that client if you can turn their project into a Case Study. Even if they don’t allow you to use their name (by the way, don’t assume this… ask!), the great work you did can still become a blinded case study or use case.
  • One of the questions you should include in your surveys should be something like, “Is there anything you’d like to share with us that we can use for marketing purposes?” It’s the easiest way to create a continuous flow of testimonials that can then be used on your website, in capabilities presentations and in proposals.
  • Have a few clients that provide high marks over several projects? They represent two opportunities to help you:
    1. Ask them if they’ll serve as a reference; just make sure to confirm each time you need them.
    2. Ask them for referrals (“Mary, is there anyone else – internally or with another company – you can think of that might benefit from our services?”)

A couple of final tips:

When you decide to go down this road of conducting surveys, here are a few more things to consider:

  • Put someone in charge of it… someone whose job description includes setting up the online surveys, sending out the survey emails and tallying the results.
    • Note: the email should come ‘from’ the CEO/President of the firm; the recipient needs to know that it’s important to your firm at the highest levels.
  • Send reminders. If your client doesn’t respond to your first email invitation in a day or two, send a second one.
  • Keep the surveys short and simple. But you already knew that!
  • Incentivize the client to complete it; we like charitable contributions. In fact, the last question of the survey should be them selecting from a list of possible recipients for the donation.
  • Finally, share the results internally. Good and bad. The good results will fill your employees with a sense of pride and provide proof that all of their hard work is paying off… and the not-so-good results will show them exactly where they can get better the next time. Either way, you win.


I started this post with a popular saying… so let me end with one, too. “Things that are easy to do are also easy not to do.” And conducting customer satisfaction surveys really is very easy to do. You just have to go do them. But once you get in the habit of conducting this research, you’ll find the results HUGELY beneficial throughout your organization.

And your children will never be without shoes again! 😉

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