The benefits of conducting market research are many. Companies that embrace the use of a good research plan can ensure their strategy will produce the expected outcomes while minimizing the unknowns. For many, starting a market research project might seem a daunting challenge when there is no market research professional available.
Here is a good starting point on 5 things to avoid and 5 tips to consider when considering a market research project.
1. Don’t do research for data you may already have
The lack of communication within companies sometimes can create gaps in knowledge. One group might be sitting on data that holds valuable insights into customer beliefs and behaviors, but it’s not being interpreted or shared. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for different departments in the same organization to commission nearly identical studies.
Do: Inventory and effectively utilize data that’s already in-house.
Tip: Many companies will audit all previous research insights to identify information already gathered but not used. Even research a few years old might have intelligence that can be utilized for the current strategy.
2. Don’t do research when there is no agreement among crucial stakeholders
If there is no agreement among key players within the organization as to the objectives of the research, it is unlikely to gain any traction once the project is fielded. Studies are sometimes ordered based on a group hunch, or the opinion of an influential player, or because it seemed like a good idea. Other times, a study is commissioned just because there is a budget for it. If that money isn’t used now, the thinking goes, it disappears from next year’s budget. No matter how “orphan” research projects come about, they are very often ignored because there was no attempt to build consensus for that study beforehand.
Do: Get full buy-in on the objectives of a research project before proceeding.
Tip: Over-communicate your project internally. Getting both the buy-in and potentially additional supporters of the research can improve the return on the research effort but also build a more inclusive strategy. Having cross-functional awareness of research allows for better thinking and the potential to garner additional funding for larger research.
3. Don’t ask a question when you don’t want to know the answer
Avoid “disaster check” research: when the company has already decided on a course of action regardless of any dissenting data, but they wish to show that there was an attempt to vet their decision. Ironically, these disaster checks often end up predicting the disaster but not preventing it, because the appropriate action was not taken. When research is done before business decisions are made, brands triumph. But as an afterthought, it’s a waste of resources at best.
Do: Put resources into research that’s designed to be actionable.
Tip: Learn the motivators that result in the desired outcomes. By focusing on the information that delivers the wanted behavior, the research will reveal the drivers that can be promoted or replicated to increase the people following that outcome.
4. Don’t frustrate respondents with questions they can’t possibly answer
If the reaction from a respondent amounts to an irritated “How the heck should I know?” then you’ve asked the wrong question. This often takes the form of overly complex or technical questions that exceed the respondent’s knowledge or experience. It’s also common in focus groups where participants are asked to comment on topics like packaging – graphic design, color choice, etc. They may like the color or the picture, but they can’t tell marketers what combination will make a design appeal to a wider market, or whether it’s on-brand (or not). Respondents will answer these questions. But the marketer who tries to take action on those opinions is asking for trouble.
Do: Empathize with respondents and use appropriately framed research questions.
Tip: Research projects can be iterative. Instead of creating complex questions do a project to get one set of insights, then do a second one to obtain the next set. This will provide better outcomes and actionable items.
5. Don’t let research costs outweigh the potential benefits
There is sometimes an urge to look at every conceivable customer segment with huge and expensive studies addressing questions that could have been answered with a more direct approach. It may also be a question of someone trying to answer too many business questions with a single piece of research. But this often ends up as unwieldy and counterproductive.
Do: Design targeted research around clearly defined objectives. Sometimes a scalpel is better than a hatchet.
Tip: Build a research plan for the things you wish to learn and prioritize the opportunity for each. Doing so can organize the knowledge needed and ensure it will provide the greatest impact. Having a research plan to reference helps align the strategy and objectives to optimize the research.
Ed Rodgers is Director of Marketing at Socratic Technologies, a research-based consultancy that drives strategy and lifts brands. Socratic harnesses the power of AI machine-learning and advanced statistics to better understand why consumers make the choices they make. www.sotech.com