B2B International
B2B International

March 23, 2007

There are few places where so many factors can influence the smooth execution of market research studies as Latin America. Here are some basic rules critical to mission success, to be followed for a happy ending to any project.

These “LatAm Research Laws” can be summarised in three broad categories:

Language and Culture
Logistics and Climate
Legal and Economical

For many global research projects, researchers try to adopt identical methods, even in vastly different markets and cultures. For Latin America, this approach may function well in two diverse situations: where that method is so basic that it will suit even very low-tech environments, or if the target respondents are culturally similar worldwide, such as software developers, the project may be successful.

But this is not the case for research in Latin America with consumers, the trade, or most B2B publics. Without a local interface to smooth the way, there is little chance of the uniform worldwide method functioning throughout the region; and if it is applied without adjustments, there is only a low probability that the results will be as desired.

Heed language differences, including those among countries with the deceiving similarity of a common language; i.e. Spanish.

Heed cultural particularities. For example, the telephone may be the most appropriate method for a study in some LatAm countries, while elsewhere telephone will not function. It depends on diverse factors such as sample demographics, interview timing, the subject matter and the questionnaire structure.

Respect your Providers. Do not impose eminently pragmatic business treatment on professionals accustomed to a warmer, personal dialogue. Don’t expect them to give same-day turnaround for your anonymously-addressed “gang e-mailâ€?.

Speak a global language. Avoid using buzz words and acronyms in communications and especially in questionnaires.

Use universal terminology. Don’t even think of asking all your local providers for a sample of classes “A, B and C1â€? unless you are willing to have a sample equivalent to the top 15%in one Latin American country, but only the top 40% in another part of the region. Use the universal language such as “per centâ€?.

Don’t ask what people will not answer. Beginning an interview with an income filter is a direct route to sampling error, because half the respondents might refuse, and those at both ends of the income spectrum might distort their responses.

Don’t shop in the dark. Seek help both “hereâ€? and “thereâ€?. First get suggestions and references from experience research buyers. A “gang e-mailâ€? sent to a long list of potential suppliers is roulette, and is unlikely to help breed a long term relationship with a trusted partner.

Effective international research requires quick, clear two way communications and timely input from local project managers. To avoid delay, embarrassment, wasted budget and unhappy clients, it’s wide to consult trusted in-market researchers before defining appropriate methodology, sampling procedures, or logistic solutions.