Providing custom business research since 2005.
What We Do
Sterling Associates is a boutique business research and consulting firm operating out of Cleveland, OH.
We help clients identify, prioritize, and answer the key questions that underpin business decisions, including strategy development, potential investments, salesforce effectiveness, new market entry, and other initiatives.
Each project is designed to address the specific and unique issues our clients face.
We are a generalist firm–our work covers a wide range of industries.
These values are the foundation of our success. They are Sterling’s DNA—not platitudes. They shape our approach to our work, our clients, and each other.
We deliver high quality insight
We work very hard to deliver the best information and insight to our clients. We engage as thought partners and bring relentless curiosity to our research efforts—we take the challenge of answering client questions personally, and we’ll go the extra mile to make sure we do.
We continuously improve
We are always working to build a better approach—better processes, better methods, better outcomes. Rather than asking a version of the question, we strive to ask the best version of the question. We have structures in place to ensure our people develop as professionals through training and feedback. We reject complacency.
We are flexible and nimble
As a firm, as teams, and as individuals, our size and skill set enable us to pivot quickly and effectively when new challenges arise. If we encounter a roadblock, we will find another way.
We build through trust
Trust is the foundation of our relationships, both internally and with clients, vendors, partners, and research participants. We build this trust through respectful, professional interactions, integrity in our process and our results, and transparent communications.
We are truly a team
Everyone pitches in at every level of the organization. We work together towards common goals. Each member of our team takes ownership and accountability for their role in ensuring the best outcomes. We compete collectively, not amongst each other. We promote camaraderie and confidence—without ego.
Careful, Collaborative Scoping
We help clients prioritize.
We help clients sort through which information is “must-have” and which might be “nice-to-know,” and we’ll build a work plan that prioritizes accordingly.
We focus on the feasible.
Having completed over 1,000 projects, we have a strong sense for what is achievable. We leverage this experience and expertise to build feasible research plans for a given time frame or a given budget. Our experience helps us anticipate which approaches will be effective and which are likely to be a dead end.
Client-forward, not sales-forward.
We are proactive collaborators when scoping projects. We’re not afraid to ask questions and push back if we don’t think a client’s money will be well spent.
Our Research Methods
We rely on a range of research methodologies to generate proprietary insight that is custom-built to answer clients’ key questions.
- Sterling has conducted over 10,000 in-depth market interviews with customers, potential customers, channel partners, and other experts
- Our experience helps us get the most from each call, establishing rapport with our interviewees and deciding when to go deep versus when to move on in the interest of time
- Our in-house Outreach Team recruits interviewees. We do not rely on expert networks for interviews, although we source through them opportunistically
- Sterling has fielded hundreds of web surveys to reach a company’s customers and/or the broader market
- We believe survey writing is an art form. Unlike interviews, where questions can change on the fly, surveys need to be “right” the first time
- Precise wording, careful participant screening, and coded question logic ensure that respondents understand what they’re answering and that resulting data are meaningful
- We have relationships with multiple “sample” providers that help us reach various audiences quickly and effectively
- When needed, our in-house Outreach Team recruits participants by phone and email to reach audiences not accessible through third-party sources
- We will use a range of data sources and methodologies to help our clients size a given market. This often includes pairing primary research—like high n custom web surveys and market interviews—with secondary research (census figures, company sales data, etc.) to build reliable estimates.
- Usually used to complement and / or contextualize primary research. Our approach is targeted and efficient.
As we learn, we adapt.
Good researchers need to be nimble. Sometimes, initial findings reshape client priorities or suggest a change of course. If we think the original plan is no longer the best plan, we say so.
Teams that flex.
We’ve designed our organization to be fast, efficient, and flexible. A core consulting team is staffed for the duration of a project, and they are supported at different phases by our Outreach and Market Interview teams. These groups help us surge our primary research capacity and access personas that the expert networks can’t.
Transparent, flexible pricing.
Clients appreciate our transparent pricing model—where dollars are linked to specific work streams—which allows them to easily add or subtract from the initial project scope.
We’re curious people. Once we engage, we want to get to the bottom of an issue—we want the answers as badly as our clients do! Our clients get genuine thought partners.
We call it like we see it, whether the information is favorable or unfavorable. And if we can’t draw a firm conclusion, or if our experience leads us to doubt a result, we say so.
We focus our reports on what matters most to our clients and at the level of detail they want to consume. Our output ranges from highly comprehensive slide decks to summary level documents, based on client preference and the nature of the project.