There are several plans (and even more sub-plans) that combine to create a robust, comprehensive and above-all successful market research initiative -- and one of the most important pieces of the puzzle is a data collection plan. Below, we highlight 3 best practices to ensure that you head in the right direction with your data collection plan so it can ultimately generate actionable insights that move your business ahead.
1. Every Data Collection Plan Needs A Drive Method – not the Other Way Around
How you collect data in the field – such as through surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews, and the list of options goes on – will directly impact both the integrity of your data collection plan, and ultimately, the value of the information once it is gathered, analyzed, organized, reported on, and activated.
As such, it is critical to ensure that your choice of data gathering method(s) is based on an objective understanding of your research needs. Otherwise, if you (or a consultant, agency or any other third-party on your behalf) has an inherent bias towards a certain method – perhaps because it is more familiar, more readily available, or simply cheaper and easier to manage – then that method will invariably become part of the data collection plan, even though it is not the best option.
Now, with this being said, it is also true that some methods may not be feasible because of cost or time factors (such as in-depth interviews). However, this determination – i.e. that a method is not feasible – should be based on the fact that it is not viable at the present time. It should not be kept out of the plan because the people carrying out the data collection do not know how to use it, are not good at using it, or frankly would rather use something else. The objective needs of your research should always drive your choice of methods -- not the other way around.
2. Get Everyone on the Same Page
Many otherwise effective and well-designed data collection plans are doomed to failure – or at least, less-than-optimal execution – because not all team members are on the same page. This usually leads to breakdowns sooner than later, and low quality, inaccurate data that skews results.
The good news is that aligning paradigms and mindsets is not difficult, and does not require any formal training (i.e. everyone on your team does not have to get certified in Market Research methods!). Rather, your focus should be on ensuring -- well before the data gathering process starts -- that all team members clearly understand and accept the data collection plan. That way, they can share a uniform approach when it comes to the overall aims of the study, and therefore make decisions that are in alignment with that goal.
In the same way, ensure that team members know how to interpret the application of numerical values to qualitative data. For example, if they mandated to evaluate responses on a scale of 1-5, there should be a clear, objective rubric that identifies what a “4” is, and just as importantly, how and why it differs from a “3” or a “5”. Without this criterion, despite their best efforts, team members will struggle to analyze the data in a consistent manner. Furthermore, it is important to conduct test instances to verify repeatability and reproducibility, and regularly debrief team members (as a group or individually as required).
3. Choose the Right Field Data Collection Partner
While having a professional-grade data collection plan and aligned, well-trained team members are both vital – they, alone, will not be enough to ensure that your effort is successful, and that your investment drives and delivers ROI.
For end-to-end success, you also need to choose the right field data collection partner who will guide you and your teams every step of the way. This partner will ensure that all relevant best practices are established and enforced, while procedures and workflows that fall short of standards (typically not through lack of effort, but lack of awareness and education) are proactively corrected.
To learn more about best practices for creating a data collection plan – and just as importantly, implementing it successful to achieve your unique research goals and objectives – contact the Communications For Research team today. You’ll speak with our co-CEO Colson Steber who can give you market research advice, a quote and many other insights from his years of market research experience. Plus if you have already drafted or developed a data collection plan (in whole or part), we would be pleased to review it and provide you with targeted, actionable recommendations.
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