How To Conduct Market Research for Consulting Projects

By Chelsea Williams
Senior Copywriter
Dec 7 2023 read

You know your consulting services are unique and effective, but how can you prove it? 

Instead of only considering the data you gather post-delivery, start developing in-depth reasoning for your strategic guidance from the moment you meet a new client.

Especially if you’re in management consulting or a similar field, your clients may come to you with hunches about what they’d like to try to grow their businesses or achieve specific goals. Many times, these are based on assumptions about their potential customers and target market.

Your job is to prove that you understand their ideal customers’ needs and pain points and can offer insights they haven’t come across yet as they prepare to launch a new product or create a business plan, for example. Large firms often outsource this step, but if you run a small to mid-sized firm, you may be tasked with conducting market research in-house. This can be time-consuming and costly, but it’s less so when you approach it with caution and a template.

Here, we’ll draw upon insights and best practices to guide you through carrying out effective market research to support more profitable consulting projects.

Why Do Market Research for a Consulting Firm?

Each of your projects will have distinct goals, challenges and market environments. When you’re advising a client, your team’s expertise is just one part of what you can offer. Your conclusions and deliverables will be much more powerful when you verify and enhance their relevance and effectiveness with quantitative and qualitative data.

Below are just some of the ways your projects and client relationships will improve when you focus on doing great market research.

Help clients understand opportunities and risks

Through market research, you’ll be able to highlight potential growth areas and enable your clients to capitalize on consumer demands. Your findings may also reveal competitor strategies or upcoming market challenges, giving your clients a chance to preempt obstacles and approach the current business landscape with more confidence.

Give more accurate and detailed advice

Data-driven strategies are always going to be more supportive than the alternatives. Real market data, presented in a way that’s customized to answer your clients’ key questions, will help your team feel aligned and give them a clear path to success when the project begins.

Prep the client for building brand awareness

Market research informs small business owners about consumer preferences, market gaps and competitive positioning, which are essential for developing a strong brand. Even if your project is not marketing-focused, your research will support your clients in establishing an efficient marketing strategy that amplifies their results.

Establish evidence for future business decisions

The insights that arise from your market research provide a foundation for strategic planning, too. Solid data about target customers facilitates forecasting and trend anticipation. When they rely on your firm’s data to achieve their long-term business goals, clients are more likely to come back for your guidance — and, therefore, become sources of recurring revenue.

With these tangible benefits ready for the taking, use the following step-by-step overview to conduct consulting project market research.

Draw From Clients’ Buyer Personas

Unless they’re coming to you at the very early startup stage, there’s a good chance your clients have already done some market research. They developed a business idea and proposed products or services based on the needs of a target audience.

Over time, their initial presumptions should’ve been turned into one to three core fictional customers with fleshed-out demographics and buying habits. These profiles are key components of any go-to-market strategy, as they drive helpful market segmentation and messaging.

Why start with buyer personas? Even though market research informs buyer personas, there’s also value in switching the chronology: Use personas as a starting point for further research. Your clients’ potential customer base could be huge, and you need to know who they want to reach, not just who they could reach.

Derive Specific Research Questions

You shouldn’t start conducting market research without one or more questions to answer. Some questions may be predetermined by the intention of the client and the theme of the project. But with a well-defined audience in mind, you can craft questions that delve into the ideal customer’s deeper patterns and reveal layers of their behavior your client might not have otherwise noticed.

While open-ended questions work well, they should be structured to elicit detailed, actionable responses.

The following questions are examples:

  • What are the key factors influencing purchasing decisions in the target market?
  • How do customers perceive the client's brand compared to competitors?
  • Which marketing channels are most effective in reaching the target audience, and why?
  • What are the primary challenges customers face, and how can the client’s solution(s) better address these?
  • What are the emerging trends in the client’s industry that are likely to impact customer preferences and behaviors in the near future?

READ NEXT: Generalist No More: The Age of Specialization in Consulting

Commit to a Market Research Method

One of the biggest mistakes consulting firms make is to conduct informal research without a clear-cut methodology. As a result, they may end up with unreliable data.

The two main types of market research are primary research and secondary research, and in most cases, you’ll want to do a bit of both.

The direct approach: Primary market research

Primary research involves direct engagement with the market to gather new and specific data. Candid conversations are a highly effective way to obtain firsthand information. Most consultants and researchers choose to have these conversations via interviews or focus groups. Primary market research doesn’t just provide qualitative data, though. When you reach out directly to the ideal customer with online surveys, for example, you can come up with quantifiable insights that can be statistically analyzed.

The ideas, opinions and habits you unearth in primary research can inspire your team to explore more in the secondary phase.

The scholarly route: Secondary market research

Secondary research complements primary research with a macro, more long-term view of the market. It adds depth and context with research studies, industry reports, market analyses and other published data. This mostly quantitative research helps you and your client understand the business environment in which they operate and can sometimes influence how you frame your research question.

➡️ Hinge Marketing offers advice about the best types of market research for professional services firms.

Dive Deep With Competitive Analysis

Understanding your client’s competition is crucial. You should aim to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both direct and indirect competitors by analyzing their:

  • Market share
  • Product or service portfolio
  • Website traffic
  • Social media following
  • PR presence
  • Marketing strategy
  • Sales channels

Look at how — and how quickly — your client’s competitors are incorporating market trends. For instance, if the client is in retail, you might focus on eCommerce practices, such as how their direct competitors frame shipping in the checkout process to minimize abandoned carts. If they’re in the tech industry, have their competitors announced plans to integrate AI into their products?

While you won’t be advising your client to fully mimic any competitor, you’re seeking gaps or opportunities for them to attain a competitive advantage in a way that aligns with their mission and goals.

Report and Present Your Findings

Post-data collection, it’s time to interpret the numbers and build the story your market research tells. How you present your findings to your client is as important as what you’ve discovered.

There are many business intelligence tools that can help your team efficiently process and model data, including financial insights, in a clear and concise fashion. Use visual aids and build a narrative to help them zero in on the most critical findings and what they mean.

Ultimately, your means of presenting this research will help your client answer the question: "Do this consulting firm’s ideas make sense, and should we move forward with implementing them now?” So, reporting on market research is like a second proposal, even though the client has already agreed to work with you.

➡️ TIP: Use an AI platform to input your data and create a professional market research presentation, then have your team customize the outcome to speak directly to the client’s most critical concerns and the goals of your project.

Practice Conducting Market Research

The best way to be great at something you provide for your clients is to practice it internally. You should renew market research for your consulting firm at least once per year. 

Take a close look at how you’re marketing your services and give your team the opportunity to stay on top of best practices for market research by conducting it for the business they know best.


About the Author


Chelsea Williams is Senior Copywriter at Accelo, where she shares unique insights with service professionals and tells user stories via blogs, eBooks, industry reports and more. She has over 15 years of B2B and B2C writing experience — primarily in tech, sales, education and healthcare. Chelsea is an AWAI-certified Master Copywriter trained in brand storytelling and microcopy.

Schedule a Live Demo
Tailored to your business All questions answered
Request a Time
Accelo uses cookies to give you the best possible experience - by clicking 'Continue' you agree to our use of cookies. Refer to our Privacy Policy for details. Continue