Market research is an extremely valuable tool to have at your disposal but only if the results of any research study are used in an intelligent way. In this article, we offer some tips on how to get the most out of your market research.
The truth and nothing but the truth! It is not a bad edict for market researchers, after all, we are usually hired as an independent source of facts. However, this is by no means the full story. Research is likely to cost tens of thousands of pounds and if we had to pay for it personally, very few of us could afford it. Research has, therefore, to have a justification – a return on investment (ROI). Justifying the investment in research has become a big challenge for the industry over the last decade.
A research project for a new product that will not come to full potential for a few years can only have a theoretical ROI calculation. A customer satisfaction study may result in happier customers but the net effect on profits is not always obvious. There is so much else contributing to the bottom line. Instead of attempting spurious calculations on ROI, a more practical approach is to focus on the action that arises from the research. Research that prompts action is much more likely to have a payback. So how can we ensure that our work goes beyond the collection of data and leads to action?
The starting point of any project is the brief. There is an old saying that “a problem defined is a problem half solved”. Time spent scoping the project and thinking about what action will be taken, will pay huge dividends. At every stage of the design process the question must be asked – “what will I do with this data when I have got it?”. This will not only drive action, it will seriously shorten the length of our questionnaires.
Market researchers are trained to think about research in a scientific way in order that it is seen to have academic rigour. However, marketing and many of its solutions are as much driven by emotion as they are by science and we should not be precious about how we find answers to problems. A straw poll or an ideas box on an exhibition stand might generate biased results but could spark the inspiration for new or improved products. Keep your eyes open for ideas that have worked for other people. They will provide a tool box for actions that you can dig into.
A significant number of market research projects fail to deliver action because they are too complicated. Fancy segmentation schemes and elaborate customer value propositions may look good on paper but they seldom translate easily into action. The simpler the marketing solution, the easier it will be to implement and the more likely it will be that actions take place.
Thank goodness the written report is a thing of the past. Few people have time to read 15,000 words. Most reporting today is in easily accessible PowerPoint formats. However, findings can run to 100 pages of boring horizontal bar charts. If every slide was concluded with a bullet that said, “what this means to you is...,” the presentation deck would be halved in length and it would be far more action orientated.
Finally, market research presentations are usually made to marketers and these people aren't always tasked with implementing the recommendations. Action is frequently the responsibility of sales, production, finance and technical teams. Presentations and workshops are all the better if they involve everyone who can influence the actions and who will ultimately be involved in their implementation.