Managing a successful company depends on good planning, as well as some luck. To increase the likelihood of both, smart businesses conduct research so that they can better understand their place in a market and gain insight into their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. With good data, they can make informed decisions about how to develop their products, policies and procedures, anticipating changing market trends and identifying likely competition. Take a look at the business research process:
All research begins with a question, such as “how can we sell more products” or “how can we attract new customers?” A good question focuses a company’s attention and resources by providing a clear objective for the entire research project. With a good question, companies (or the firms they hire to help them) are able to map out a course of action that includes a method for collecting data, a system for identifying and recruiting a sample and a plan for analyzing the results.
Some questions can be partially enlightened by secondary research already at hand. Things like journal articles, case studies and syndicated market reports generated through third party sources can provide a basic understanding of some issues, but the most relevant information must be gleaned through primary research methods like focus groups, surveys and in-depth interviews. The type of question will determine the type of business research methodology, with only the right tool providing the information needed.
Next, companies must identify the people most capable of providing them with the answers to the research question. These people (also called a sample) must be knowledgeable and engaged, experienced in the right ways to relay reliable and relevant information concerning the business research question. If companies choose the wrong number and/or type of people, any resulting information won’t be fully representative of their actual audience and won’t be useful. This makes it paramount that they take the time to really think about the best way to select and recruit a target sample.
Once a sample has been identified, data collection can begin. Companies must design the research tool (a survey, interview, field study, focus group, etc.) and then get it in front of their sample audience (via the phone, the Internet, in-person meetings or a combination of any of the three). Of course, data collection necessitates a system for data storage, as well; without a plan for organizing the data they receive, companies can’t retrieve and use it later on, rendering their research efforts meaningless. Fortunately, today’s technologies make big data storage solutions easily feasible, allowing affordable options for advanced filing and sorting, as well as faster retrieval — so long as there is consistency in data labeling!
The final step in the business research process is the analysis and reporting of the research results. Statistical review of the information allows companies to place their data in context, reviewing past performance and possibly predicting future behavior.
Want to Learn More?
Business research isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies; businesses of any size can (and should) use it to bolster their products and their processes. A well-designed research project provides a review of the market and a company’s place in it so that behaviors can be anticipated and better decisions made. If you would like to learn how to conduct your own business research project, please contact our team at Communications for Research (CFR). We can help you devise a research plan that gets you the answers you need.
Please also download our free eBook, “6 Keys to Accelerate Growth with the Right Field Data Collection Partner,” for information about choosing the right research partner for your needs.