Few of us can run successful businesses without intelligence on existing or prospective markets, or on trends. A large number of experts exist to provide the data that we need. Many larger agencies are international organisations responding to large global client requests for multi-country research, using common techniques and standards. Some agencies specialise in particular measurement techniques, like telephone interviews, or on specific areas such as retailing, healthcare or automotive. The Market Research Society (0171 490 4911) produces a book which profiles market research organisations and includes notes on the production of a brief and the choice of a research supplier.
Rather simplistically, research can be split into two types. There is customised research carried out exclusively for a client to answer a specific query. This can be qualitative, with the aim of getting people's views on a product, market or idea; or quantitative, where the goal is measuring the purchasing levels and consumer profile of a product.
Then there is continuous research, typically provided on a regular basis, usually syndicated to a number of different clients, and you can buy into it. Examples of this include large consumer panels monitoring detailed purchasing habits or exposure to the main media.
Stephan Buck is a non-executive director of Taylor Nelson Sofres. 0181 967 4787.