Spontaneity is a great catalyst for excitement and can spur creativity in unlikely ways, but it’s not exactly the preferred course of action for businesses wanting to bank on their future success. To quote Yogi Berra, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.” Indeed, relying on calculated plans instead of impulse simply makes it easier for companies to direct their actions toward specific outcomes, safeguarding resources, including their money and their time. Much like it’s hard for us to arrive at the right destination without a proper address, it’s difficult for businesses to succeed if they don’t establish a qualified plan of attack before they set course. Here are the steps involved in market research that all businesses need to take to facilitate growth of any kind:
Define the Problem
Evaluation is the starting point for any endeavor. Humans have been problem solving since Lucy and many of her ancestors stood up to peer over the grasslands that were beginning to replace their forest homes. For millions of years, we have identified obstacles and sought ways to tackle them. Companies use the same principle to initiate the market research process. They pinpoint a problem and make the decision to find a solution for it. Maybe they begin to wonder why sales are down in a certain region. Or why customers don’t make repeat purchases. Or perhaps they want to assess the viability of a new product offering. Whatever the case, they must detail a clear-cut problem with a question that is neither too broad nor too narrow (such as “Who are our target customers?” or “What is the best price point for product X?”) that it can’t be answered.
Devise a Research Plan
With a unambiguous problem outlined, businesses determine how they will get their answers. Mundane but important concerns (like budgets and timelines), as well as more precise considerations (like methodologies and target audiences), are evaluated against end goals and available resources. During this step of the market research process, companies choose the method they will use to collect their data (surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc.). They consider how they will choose, recruit and contact respondents (in-person, via telephone, Internet and/or mail, etc.), and they establish the ways with which they will analyze their results. The overall scope of the problem should necessarily dictate the research design and not the other way around.
Develop the Research Instrument
This step of the market research process is often considered the most important one. Businesses can’t get good information if they don’t ask the right questions. Thus, they must develop questions that take into consideration the chosen data collection tool(s), the demographics of their target respondents and the methods they will use to analyze their findings.
(Manage the) Data Collection
No matter how well designed a research plan might be, if the facts and figures it gleans are not carefully collected and organized, then any resulting insight will, as a matter of course, be unreliable. Care must be taken that all aspects of data collection, whether manual or automated, are overseen by qualified market research professionals who maintain data integrity.
Of course, data is meaningless without critical analysis. Businesses must review the information they gather, statistically and/or descriptively evaluating all of it in ways that produce actionable insight.
Describe the Data
Part of good analysis is also constructing readable and relevant reports. While tables and graphs are usually part of any good market research project, they shouldn’t be the only part. Materials must be presented in ways that appeal to each type of shareholder involved in the research process, with their inclusion offering explanation and value to the original research question and the audience at hand.
The last step involved in market research is to act! Businesses must critically assess the insights they’ve gained to see if and/or how those insights fit within current market conditions and their own available resources, making decisions that hopefully better their products and practices for the future.
Want to Learn More?
There a several steps in any market research plan. If you need assistance with any one of them, contact our team at Communications for Research (CFR). We have been designing and executing quality market research projects for over 20 years. We can help you evaluate your priorities and resources and craft a research strategy that gets you the answers you need to make profitable decisions.