When to pay for a market report

Decision support for syndicated market research

Experienced leaders know that research into markets, customers, and competitors can provide invaluable inputs to their strategy development and execution. First, a decision must be made between three basic research sources: doing it yourself, hiring a partner for custom research, or purchasing a syndicated report. Syndicated research is touted as having many benefits but is it really worth it? The answer is a firm “maybe.”

Syndicated Research 101

Syndicated research is created and sold by a research company to multiple client companies. In other words, it’s generic and a case-by-case decision must be made on its relative benefits.

According to the American Marketing Association, 15% of the top 50 US market research firms’ total 2016 revenue of $10.552B was from syndicated research. So, there are many who value this source of market research. The biggest providers are Nielsen, QuintilesIMS, and Kantar.  These firms have a broad scope but niche research firms such as Frost & Sullivan and Gartner should not be overlooked.

What you may not realize

If syndicated research is a shortcut to market insights, everyone knows it. There are no secrets here. These reports are put together to appeal to as many potential clients as possible. That is both their strength and weakness. Any time spent after purchase to analyze or modify content detracts from the original value calculation. Here are some examples:

  • Alignment: These reports can be problematic if you are using them to validate internal research because their reporting may not align to your internal definitions. Any adjustments to market size, segmentation, customer types, product definitions, competitive set, etc. will require manual adjustments to update tables and charts.


  • Analysis: Syndicated reports are oftentimes comprehensive in nature and that’s wonderful, unless you have limited time or ability to find the “aha” piece of information for your company. Several times I’ve been given reports and asked, “Tell me what it means.” There can be quite a distance between the shortcut and the end destination.


  • Assistance: In my experience it’s not true that all clients who purchase a syndicated research report will receive the same information. If something you expect is missing or you have a question, then ask. Sometimes, information is collected that doesn’t make it into the report or may be available from on-going data collection.

Bottom Line

Think of syndicated research as a shortcut to quality information that would take you a long time to put together. It’s not the same as doing it yourself or commissioned research but it has its place. Consider your specific situation, then judge the available time, cost, and competence. If you are leaning towards syndicated research, do not think your work is done at purchase: there is still time needed for alignment, analysis, and assistance – every minute of which should be considered in the purchase decision.

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail, please contact us at inquiries@aptussc.com.