When you’re running a business, there’s nothing more important than data. You need data to inform your decision making process, and not just to ensure you’re making the right decisions. Sometimes you can do everything right, prepare for a new product launch with advertising and competitions and then your new product simply fails to find its audience and doesn’t make back its investments. It’s due to circumstances entirely beyond your control: maybe an unseasonal bout of good weather meant people were in parks instead of shops, and you simply missed your moment.

If you’ve been steering a business based simply on gut instinct and luck, then these situations will happen more often for you and you could find they rebound with unfortunate effects for your career. One of the advantage of taking a data driven approach to your decision making is that when you have to account for your actions to shareholders, a board or clients, whether it’s to celebrate a success or explain a failure, you can show exactly how you arrived at a course of action, and hopefully can model why reality didn’t match up to your predictions, allowing for better results next time.

One of the most valuable sources of data is a market research company, so today we’re shining a quick spotlight on ways you can work with them to get the results you need for your business.

The most important thing to bear in mind is that this is, or should be, a collaborative relationship. If you simply make your demands and then sit back and wait for results you won’t be getting the most out of the skilled professionals you are, after all, paying for their time. Look on this as a discussion, rather than simply briefing the work you want done. You’re talking to the experts in research and data gathering, so talk with them about what you’re trying to find out and let them give you their advice about how best to gather it.

Of course this likely means that they’ll have a different budget in mind than what you’ve ringfenced. Bear your budget in mind, and make sure you talk in detail about the potential highest and lowest return on investment you can expect from the research campaigns and you’ll be sure to avoid overextending yourself, while still getting all the information you need.