Some businesses make the common – yet fatal – mistake of diving straight into their market research plan; or in some cases, start collecting data (usually via more easily available channels and methods, such as social media or email) before setting objectives.
However, in order for market research to generate actionable insights and be worth the cost and time investment to deliver ROI, the right and only place to start is with setting market research goals. Generally, there are 3 phases of this process:
Phase 1: Identifying the Problem
A major reason why some businesses neglect to set market research goals, is not because they are exploring or experimenting. Naturally, any business that undertakes market research of any kind thinks they have an objective.
However – and this is the critical point to grasp – sometimes that objective is NOT the best one. For example, the objective may actually be related to a management issue rather than a marketplace issue (note: it is certainly possible to conduct research to address management issues, but a different approach and tools are used, such as staff surveys, etc.).
Or, even if the objective does target a marketplace issue, not everyone may define the problem the same way. For example, a business may be experiencing above-market customer churn rates. The sales team may view this as a product adoption problem; i.e. customers are struggling to use the product, and hence it needs to be easier to use. However, the product development team may say that the root cause is that the product’s marketing is targeting the wrong customer type, or that account executives are not equipping newly-onboarded customers with educational tools so they can take a rapid path to value.
No single team or department is likely to “own” the absolute truth, and there is typically going to be a difference of opinion. However, ultimately there does need to be buy-in and consensus regarding the value of market research. That is, all teams need to accept the fundamental premise of the problem that the market research will ultimately address (i.e. the goal or goals of the process).
Phase 2: Use the Market Research Goals to Design the Research
Once the market research goals are identified and established, the next step is about design. This is yet another potential pitfall where “good market research goes bad.”
The problem here, is that many businesses do not design their market research strategy and tactics based on market research goals. Rather, they flip the table, and try to wrap the market research goals to fit their preferred design!
Indeed, this is the market research world equivalent to the adage “if all you have in your hand is a hammer, then everything you see starts to look like a nail.” Similarly – and just as incorrectly – if all that consultants have to work with are, for example online surveys or focus groups, then guess what? Their design is going to align with that pre-conceived preference.
Now, with this being said, it IS possible that a consultant’s preferred methodology, or the one that they have the most experience with, does indeed happen to be the optimal selection. Yet this conclusion should be based on objective, unbiased evidence and be fully justified (as with any other recommendation). It should not be simply a lucky coincidence.
Of course, there are other factors to consider here as well that must go into the design process, such as budget, timeframe, and so on. Limitations here (especially with budget) will impact design, since not all options will be possible. Again, this determination should be based on facts, not bias.
Phase 3: Establish the Market Research Goals and Design as the Basis for the Overall Plan
Once the market research goals (i.e. the business problem that needs to be solved), and the most effective (all things considered) research design is developed, the next phase is to put together a comprehensive, practical and strategic market research plan.
Among other key elements, the plan should include the qualitative and/or quantitative methods that will be used to gather data, the methodology and tools that will be used to analyze and organize data and when reports will be available (if applicable for various stakeholder groups like Executive, Sales, Marketing, Finance, R&D, Product Development, etc.).
Naturally, the market research plan must be customized for each specific business, and furthermore, for its unique market research goal and opportunity. Despite the promise, a one-size-fits-all approach, ironically, does not fit everyone!
To learn more about how to set market research goals and objectives for your business, and to design, execute and manage your market research plan, contact us today and schedule a chat with our co-CEO Colson Steber.
While learning more about your business, Colson can give you feedback on your research goals and help you learn more about the market research your question might need in order to be answered.
For more information on how to communicate the value of market research to your clients, download our FREE eBook: