Jackie Anderson [Posted by Jackie Anderson]

It's that time of year when many market researchers are going cross-eyed staring at the latest version of their budget. The 2010 wish-lists have been replaced with financing realities and many of us are forced to make tough calls on what will survive. If you're like many of us, your visions of 2010 start with a laundry list of "I'd-like-tos". "I'd like to try using an online community next year." "I'd like to introduce more innovative techniques in our online surveys." But too often those wishes are juxtaposed with budgets that remain flat or decrease year-over-year. While the initial reaction to the prospect of living with last year's budget may be to keep things the same there can still be room for innovation. We tackled a similar issue in our research when the impending recession was looming near. But whether you're dealing with budgets in a recession or simply trying to free additional dollars to innovate next year here are a couple of easy things you can do:

  • Consolidate vendors across teams. Do you have internal teams that run their own surveys? If so, find out what vendors they're using and then try to consolidate. Most vendors will offer bulk-rate pricing that can save you money on every survey complete you log. If your survey usage is splintered throughout the organization there could be huge savings you've missed here.
  • Commit to the entire year. Vendors are also big fans of knowing there's definitive business in the pipeline. If you know you're going to run at least 4 customer sat surveys next year commit to these up front with your vendor. In return, ask for preferential pricing that not only applies to those 4 surveys but any additional surveys that you may add on.
  • Maximize survey space. Do you field multiple surveys for different teams? By planning out your internal teams' survey needs for 2010 you may be able to consolidate surveys. Instead of having your team manage twenty 10 minute surveys you could be running ten 20 minute surveys. This translates not only to survey cost savings but also freed-up time for your team.
  • Re-examine tracker studies. Oftentimes we fall prey to the repetitive nature of tracker studies and automatically include them every year. However, sometimes traditions need to be broken-or at least re-examined. Perhaps the quarterly tracker can be modified to be run bi-annually. At first, people might balk at the idea of doing something different but reconfiguring these surveys can free up valuable space and budget. Many consumer trends aren't changing as quickly as they once were when we were dealing with the explosive growth of the Internet. So, a quick review of how often numbers really need to be updated can uncover new opportunities.

These are only four quick items that can end up saving enough money to fund additional surveys. There are a whole host of creative ways to maximize budget that we've employed when helping clients during this challenging time of the year.  I'd also love to hear about the other tactics you've employed to maximize the budget you're working with.