Big vs Boutique – Which Qualitative Research Firm is Best for You?

by DJI

All of our clients have one thing in common:  they have tapped into the benefits of using a boutique market research provider – Dowe Johnston Insights.  In case not all of our readers are aware of these benefits, we’re happy to explain the various advantages offered by smaller versus larger research providers.

Advantages of a Boutique Company for Qualitative Research

Where big research houses have copious resources, boutique firms are slender – but concentrated, which offers its own advantages.  For example:

  • Senior-level attention:  At boutique firms, you are guaranteed to receive senior attention at every stage of the process.  When the lead researcher is also the CEO, there’s an additional motivation to provide top-quality services.
  • Direct account management:  When you communicate your questions and ideas to the “account manager” you will also be talking to the person who’ll be actualizing them; there’s no third-party management.
  • Flexibility and responsiveness:  With their streamlined corporate administration, there’s less bureaucracy and more freedom to tailor a project (either methodology or price) to specific needs, and more agility to implement quick changes in the design or execution stages of a project.
  • Greater partnership potential:  When a moderator at a boutique firm works with the same clients over time, his or her understanding of the client’s business builds as well, providing the foundation for a more proactive approach to their particular challenges. As an example, DJI has 20+ year relationships with 2 packaged goods clients for whom we have conducted hundreds of studies.
  • Industry specialization:  Individual boutiques may over the years develop a particular focus on your category or business type, offering a depth of experience that is not always available at larger research houses.
  • Cost savings:  Lower overhead usually means lower costs.

Advantages of Big Companies for Qualitative Research

The upsides of turning to a large market research provider for qualitative work are mainly related to their larger pool of resources:

  • Helping hands:  Junior staff can help fulfill project requirements such as secondary research, reviewing and assembling video clips, or helping out with complex scheduling.
  • Emergency back-up:  If something should happen to the scheduled moderator, another moderator can fill in, and may even be familiar with the client.
  • Availability:  If a research buyer has little or no scheduling flexibility, often larger firms can accommodate this.  If a project absolutely has to happen on a particular night, there is usually someone available.
  • Global resources:  The larger the firm, the more likely it is to be able to coordinate international studies through other branch offices or affiliates (though more and more small independent researchers are able to network effectively around the globe).
  • Corporate expertise:  The more moderators a company has, the better the chances there is a moderator with expertise specific to a client’s industry sector.
  • Holistic account service:  Big research houses can assemble teams that include highly skilled moderators, who work in tandem with those who specialize in quantitative studies.