3 steps to laying the foundation for solid market research

If you’ve conducted market research for your business, whether through an online survey, a competitive analysis, or even a mailed customer survey, did you act on the results? Did you find the results helpful in moving your agenda forward?

I can’t think of another aspect of marketing where the expression, ”you get out of it what you put in” could be more true than in market research.

I am always surprised to hear from business owners who have conducted some market research and thought the results were interesting and helpful, and that they might even make a couple of actionable changes, but that they seem pleased just to have conducted the research and are on to the next business issue.

When I dig a little deeper with these business owners, I often find that many have used online tools like SurveyMonkey, or simply created their own survey. While there is nothing wrong with using the online tools (in fact, sometimes they are exactly what you need), you need a solid research foundation or methodology before choosing a tool to distribute and, often, tabulate the results.

As a marketing expert with years of market research experience, I can guarantee that your research will yield mediocre results if the methodology and strategy are not sound. Market research is not, in itself, a box to be checked off on the list of marketing tasks for the year. It is a step in an ongoing process to get to know your customers or the market, or to solicit feedback on a new product or service.

I’ve outlined below a few key steps to help you determine if you need to conduct market research and how you can create the foundation for a research strategy. I encourage you to spend as much time as you can on each step. The success of your research depends on this solid foundation.

1. Identify an issue

Before conducting any research, you’ll need to identify any issues your business is facing. A good rule of thumb is that you might consider conducting market research when:

  • A product or service is not selling as well as forecasted.
  • The business is losing market share to competitors.
  • You are considering launching a new product or service, entering a new target market, or expanding geographically.

2. Determine parameters

Although this step is time consuming, it outlines the full scope of the research. You’ll need to outline the who (all stakeholders), the where (geography), the what (issue), the why (issue), and the how (qualitative or quantitative).

3. Assess value

When assessing the viability of the research, you’ll need to consider everything you’ve done in steps 1 and 2, and assess what the value is in conducting this survey versus not conducting the survey. There must be a solid business case and tangible value to your business to justify conducting this research.

After these steps are completed, you’re ready to start creating the methodology, and re-engineering the results you want into questions for the survey. Ideally, if it’s an online survey, each question will be weighted based on relevance to the issue identified. At this time, you’ll also need to assess the online survey tools available to determine if they can cross tabulate the answers in a way that will describe the results in the way you’re expecting. For example, on online tool may tell you that 50 percent of those asked enjoy watching hockey, when you were expecting an answer like, 50 percent of current male customers over age 55 in Ontario enjoy watching hockey. The nuances of market research can be numerous, so I’d recommend consulting with a marketing agency that conducts market research.

As they say about good photography: “It’s never really about the camera.” So too in research: It’s not the online tool that generates the results that give you what you want to know.

Are you considering conducting market research? Will you hire a professional to help you or conduct it yourself?

Written by: Doug Hohener. You can find the original article here.