Business research is not unlike other types of research: it seeks to answer a question. This question (also called an objective) serves as the backbone of any research project, guiding researchers toward meaningful answers that offer opportunity for actionable results. As the foundation of the research endeavor, then, the research objective necessarily defines the research method, the process by which researchers — in this case, market researchers, since the objective relates to a business concern — will identify, contact and communicate with respondents to get relevant and timely data.
Take a look at four business research methods you should consider depending on the type of information you need:
Not all research has to be primary research. Quite often companies begin their market research with secondary research materials such as syndicated market reports, trade journals and previously published case studies. Performing a literature review can save your business valuable time and money, as well as help you further understand and/or clarify your own issues so that you are able to formulate a more detailed research objective of your own in the future.
Surveys and Questionnaires
Of course, at some point, most companies will want specific answers, not just general ones. In these instances, surveys and questionnaires can offer a relatively quick and easy way of entering the world of primary research. Not only can they be distributed in a variety of ways (via mail, email, phone, kiosk, web, text, flyer, etc.), they can amass a large amount of information from a large amount of people in a small amount of time. This is especially important when companies are looking for quantifiable (not qualitative) data, such as when they need to verify customer demographics (but not when they want to validate consumer behavior or intent).
Focus Groups and Interviews
On the other hand, if a company is looking to discern “why” or “how” a specific sample of the population would (or does) respond in certain situations, a more subjective research method makes sense. Focus groups and interviews allow you to interact with respondents, probing them to explain their answers so that you have a greater depth of information at your disposal. While this can be more time-consuming and expensive than the basic survey business research method in the short term, the knowledge you gain could enable you to have a clearer understanding of the market and your consumers, thus empowering you to make better decisions and saving you wasted effort and money in the long term.
Finally, sometimes you will need or want to corroborate data. Observing behavior can be useful in these types of situations, as it removes some of the inherent biases that exist with other business research methods. However, observation requires a recognition and avoidance of its own set of limitations, namely the fact that viewing behavior can never facilitate the full understanding of intent. Therefore, the results gained from an observation can be bolstered when combined the results of other business research methods.
Ready to Learn More?
These are just a few of the business research methods you should consider. If you are interested in conducting a research project and need help matching an effective business research method to your research objective, please contact our team here at Communications for Research (CFR).
You might also like to download our free eBook, “The Insider’s Guide to Successfully Using Market Research Online Surveys," for additional tips on how to effectively set up market research online surveys for your business.