The market research process requires making decisions at many steps that can be overwhelming for non-researchers put in charge of research projects. I found the chance to help and share my experience when I got invited to teach a Twitterversity class under the topic “Principles of Market Research Project Management”, a Twitter-only event organized by Research Rockstar. For those who missed it and for those who attended and want to see all the tweets I sent under the hastag #MRXU on 7/28, in one place, here they are.
Consider the following 7 steps during the implementation of a market research project:
STEP 1. DEFINE THE RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
This is the most important step. It sets the direction of the whole market research process.
Ask clients how they will use the research results, what business decisions they will make based on the data. They should be specific
Do some background research, interview key stakeholders and research users to put the research objectives into a greater context
Gain consensus among key stakeholders on the main research objectives. Get them involved from the start
Avoid objective creep. Don’t try to research everything under the sky in a project. Focus on what’s needed for decision making
Trying to cram many things in a project because of budget constraints is often a waste of money as data quality suffers
Discuss limitations early in the process. Set clear expectations of what the research will cover and what data it will provide
Check if previous research has been conducted on the same issue to avoid effort duplication and waste of money
DO NOT select data collection method before establishing clear objectives and identifying target population
STEP 2. DETERMINE THE BUDGET
- How much are the key stakeholders willing to invest in the requested research? Get a number!
- If there is no commitment to a budget, you will be wasting your time (RFP) and your research vendor’s time (proposal)
- There is always a trade-off between research quality, deadline and cost. Make your internal clients aware of that
- There is a limit to “better, faster and cheaper” in market research. Push it too hard and you will get fast, cheap, crappy research
- Who do you want to gather data from? Customers? Non-Customers? Category users?
- Sample definition helps decide on what data collection method we use. More than one method may be needed. To read more about mixed-mode data collection check: Mixed Data Collection Modes – Round-Up
- Create clear screening criteria. Discuss them with key stakeholders. Make sure they align with the research objectives.
- Discuss the caveats and limitations of the sample definition and how they will affect the results and decision making
- Be realistic. Given your budget, you may or may not be able to reach your target population
STEP 4. DEVELOP THE ANALYTICAL PLAN
- Based on the decisions that will be made, determine what type of data is needed and expected
- Select analysis techniques that help you reach the research objectives and provide data that research users are expecting
- Example: Need to know how to price a new product before it goes to market? Conjoint analysis may be a good fit. Check: Conjoint Analysis And Realism In Price Research
- Example: Need to pick the product name that elicits the highest purchase intent from a list of 30? Consider MaxDiff. Check: Making the Case for MaxDiff
- Example: Need to find new growth opportunities? A segmentation research can help to find segments with the highest potential. Check: Segmentation is Key to Success
- Think objectives firsts, methods second. Not the other way around
- Determine sample size based on your tolerance for risk. Check Sample Size Matter
- A large sample doesn’t guarantee representativeness. Check: Does A Large Sample Size Guarantee A Representative Sample?
- The analysis techniques selected will also influence the decision on sample size
STEP 5. DEFINE DATA COLLECTION METHOD
- Objectives, sample, analytical plan & cost have the highest influence on which methods we use
- Be open to use hybrid approaches combining qualitative and quantitative data collection methods
- Ideally, if budget permits do qualitative research before or after quantitative research
- Consider qualitative research for exploration before quantitative and deep diving after quantitative research
- Consider quantitative research if a go/not go decision will be made. DO NOT make these type of decisions based only on qualitative research
- Discuss which methods are the best fit to research the target pop. Some target groups may be difficult to reach with the same method
- If you decide on mixed-mode surveys, be aware of potential measurement errors each mode introduces. Check: Understanding the Pros and Cons of Mixed-Mode Research
- Once the data collection methods are selected, determine if you can do it with internal resources or need a research vendor
- If time, staff or lack of tools are limitations, consider outsourcing the project to an external research vendor. For more on this check: When Do You Need A Market Research Vendor?
- If you have access to a customer database with emails, use it for studies related to customer retention goals and new product development
- For customer acquisition efforts use samples of non-customers in the category
- If the study is online get bids from multiple online panels.
- Don’t buy third-party email lists and blast them with survey invites. It is illegal (SPAM-CAN Act)
- If you are doing surveys, put time into its design. To create surveys that gather quality data check: Using A Strong Questionnaire To Harvest High-Quality Data
- Considering focus groups? Check if it makes sense here: When Using Focus Groups Makes Sense
- If you are doing focus groups, avoid common mistakes. To know which they are, check: Common Mistakes When Doing Focus Groups
- Don’t forget about new online qualitative research techniques. Check: Online Qualitative Research Techniques Review
STEP 6. COLLECT DATA
- Get involved, monitor. Do a soft launch if you are doing online surveys to catch any potential problems
STEP 7. ANALYZE & REPORT
- Keep the key objectives in mind to connect market research to business impact. Check: How To Connect Market Research To Business Impact
- Share preliminary results with key stakeholders, discuss, check if they make sense from a practical stand point
- Focus on the story behind the numbers and how it supports your recommendations. Don’t do a data dump. Focus on insights