What to expect from a Market Research proposal

It is the job of the research supplier to respond to the brief by considering the requirements, familiarising themselves with the product and product category, any previous research findings provided and provide a written proposal. The research buyer appraises all the proposals submitted and compares them to decide which one best meets their brief. The Market Research Proposal is in effect the contract between the client and the supplier and commits them to a specific research design with agreed timing and cost. It is therefore extremely important to ensure that everything that needs to be included is there for both to refer to. The research proposal includes:

  1. Background
  2. Objectives
  3. Methodology
  4. Reporting and Presentation
  5. Timing
  6. Cost
  7. Provision of stimulus materials
  8. Terms of Business
  9. Credentials


In this section you should expect to see a response to the brief to confirm that the Marketing Objectives have been understood and the background supplied by the client has been considered. Other work in this product category may be alluded to and general observations made about it although research findings belonging to another client should not be included. Research buyers are usually impressed when they see that the agency has additional information or insight in addition to what they have provided.


It is usual in the research objectives section to use words that show specifically that the supplier understands the brief in terms of whether it will require quantitative or qualitative research or both. Expect to see words like: to explore (qualitative), to identify (qualitative) or to investigate (qualitative), to measure (quantitative), to determine (quantitative), to quantify (quantitative). In most cases research proposals offer a main objective and possibly two or three secondary objectives.

It is not usual to list questions at this stage and if there were questions in the brief they will have been grouped into specific objectives for the purposes of the proposal.


This is arguably the most important section of the proposal as it is where the supplier shows how the research methodology chosen will address different aspects of the brief. This section needs to cover methodology chosen and any stages you suggest such as a Qualitative stage and then a Quantitative stage. You need to justify the choice of research method, what it will provide, how it will meet the research objectives and what exactly it will involve. There is no need to include a questionnaire or group topic guide at this stage but it is usual to show which research objectives will be covered by each methodology chosen so that the buyer can check off that each has been covered.

If the research is qualitative expect to see

  • the number of focus groups
  • recruitment criteria
  • where they will take place
  • how long they will be
  • stimuli to be shown

Quantitative research needs to include

  • exclusion categories
  • data bases to be used for recruitment (if relevant)
  • sample size and statistical significance (more on this Thursday)
  • sampling points (towns or cities where the research will be conducted)
  • sample details, number of respondents in each cell, demographics, usage criteria etc
  • stimuli to be shown
  • questionnaire length
  • analysis tools

Report and Presentation

The research supplier will confirm the reporting and presentation required by the briefing document as well as any progress reports that might be beneficial especially during complicated multi country projects.


This section is very important because it needs to impress the buyer in terms of meeting their deadlines but also be realistic and achievable. Clear timelines need to be outlined on a week by week basis so the client can check that they can provide what the agency needs in terms of stimuli in time for fieldwork (interviewing). Draft questionnaires for quantitative projects often have to be agreed internally by several stakeholders, translated and agreed internationally for multi country projects then piloted before final versions are available for research. This process can take weeks.


This section outlines the cost, broken down into sections so the client can see what costs apply to different stages or countries so that costs can be allocated to different country budgets if necessary.

If a budget range was provided by the brief, this may indicate that the client wants to have options to add stages, countries or adjust the sample size so a full breakdown enables them to do this.

The currency of the supplier may not be the same as the client so it needs to be clear what exchange rate is being used and what currency the supplier wants to be paid in.

Stimulus material

Most projects need stimulus materials. In qualitative projects this could include concept boards, mood boards, products, advertising and point of sale materials. Quantitative projects usually require minimal stimuli but interviewers often show examples of pack design, logos, concept statements and cards showing competitive products. These need to be prepared so the proposal will clearly describe what is needed, how many copies and timing for production of stimuli including how they need to be approved.

Terms of Business

The agency will specify their terms of business which is usually 25-50% on commission payable 60 – 90 days; this is to cover costs that will be incurred well before the project is complete such as paying interviewers who are paid weekly. The remaining costs are usually invoiced on completion but this needs to be specified in this section.


You will find here a list of people working on your project along with their CVs or professional background and experience so you can verify that they have the strengths you need on the project team. You will also find details about which clients they have worked for and whether they have experience in this specific market. The company credentials will also appear here with their experience in the product category and market.

They may also include references from clients to demonstrate their ability to handle the project successfully.

Lastly, check that your Market Research Agency is a member of the MRS – Market Research Society – or ESOMAR as this ensures that they are complying with quality and legal requirements and that they are professionally qualified.

Extract from ‘Learn Market Research in a Week’ published by Hodder Education.

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