Whether you’re starting a brand new business, launching an innovative product or service, or re-positioning your organization or brand, market research must play a critical role in establishing your overall direction.
In these days of do-it-yourself-everything, it can be tempting to dash off a quick email questionnaire or SurveyMonkey poll and hope for the best. However, working with a proven market research expert can ensure reliable outcomes and generate a significant return on investment.
Matching Methodology to Your Problem and Goals
A market research expert can help you better define and articulate your particular problem and related goals as well as recommend the best methodology to obtain what you are seeking. Typically, you’ll find that one of the following six primary or secondary methods will fit your particular situation best:
- Secondary Market Research. Although the internet is full of statistics and data, seemingly free, collecting the right existing data can be challenging. For example, census data appears straightforward, but an expert will consider error rates, nuisances in category definitions, and how to handle “unclassified” responses.
- Online Surveys. If you want to measure something quantitatively and have a large sample, you may want to consider conducting a survey. An expert can help you select the right type of survey and advise on sample size needed as well as outline the time and resources required to conduct a meaningful survey effort.
- Focus Groups. These groups typically involve a smaller number of people bouncing ideas or answers to questions off one another. They work well for qualitative research, sometimes helping to set the stage for a larger survey later or as a follow-up to issues that arise on a prior quantitative survey.
- Interviews. Like focus groups, interviews are one-on-one opportunities to explore a subject matter in more depth. They work well for generating examples and collecting ideas or reactions. However, they will not provide quantitative information.
- Experiments or Trials. Typically, this methodology involves testing one or more factors in a controlled situation. For example, a company could test two pop-up windows on the same landing page to see which one generates more email registrations. All other factors, except the component being tested, remain constant so that you can determine whether one option is more effective than another.
- Observation. In some cases, you may want to have third-party observers watch individuals as they try your product, move through your store, or browse your website. Recording and analyzing this information can reveal information that’s much different than self-reported data.
Asking the Right Questions in the Right Way
Whether you decide to conduct an online survey, a set of focus groups, or trials, you’ll need to come up with an effective questionnaire design. A market research expert can help you not only ask the right questions in the right way but also in the best order. Regardless of methodology, you’ll have a limited amount of time to collect your data so you’ll want to make sure every question counts.
An expert can help you determine how much of your questionnaire should be focused on collecting exploratory information and how many questions should be used to test a particular hypothesis.
Exploratory questions work well in focus groups, interviews, and perhaps as open-ended survey questions. More formal, standardized questions must be asked in a way that can be statistically analyzed. In this case, it’s important to consider the wording and the order of the questions as well as provide complete definitions and explanations where needed. You want to ensure that each respondent is interpreting the question in essentially the same way so that the aggregate results provide an accurate reflection of the answer.
Defining Your Sample
Once you know what questions you want to ask, the next step is defining your sample. In market research, this can be somewhat tricky because you’ll need a representative sample that reflects your entire population accurately enough to make your findings useful.
An expert can help you define your selection method, sample structure, and direction for analyzing and interpreting your findings. Sample designs can vary widely from simple to complex; depending on the level of precision you require based on your overall research goals. The more precision you need, the more complex sampling becomes.
In addition, a market research expert can help you decide if you require a sample that is proportionally representative or one this is disproportionate in order to collect enough data from smaller segments. Many samples are selected randomly to protect against biases or other researcher errors.
Each sampling strategy carries with it advantages and disadvantages. For example, cluster sampling is quick and easy but could be expensive if the cluster is large and generate greater sampling errors. Judgment sampling, on the other hand, might work well for case studies and examples but would be biased. Systematic sampling would be more accurate but could be quite expensive if sample members are not conveniently located.
Compiling Your Data
After you’ve successfully completed your market research data collection, the real analytical work begins. It’s important to understand how to edit, clean, and weigh your data in a way that will provide usable information to your organization. It’s time to convert all those numbers and answers into a report that can be used to make smarter business decisions.
By relying on a market research expert, you’ll know that the post-research steps were completed accurately and in a way that will generate reliable results. An expert will typically perform the following steps:
- Check questionnaires. It’s important to go through all the submitted data and eliminate incomplete or invalid questionnaires. These may include ones where individuals failed to follow instructions, did not complete all the questions, submitted the answers after a deadline, or did not meet respondent qualifications.
- Edit answers. Experts will go through the surveys and edit answers that are difficult to read, inconsistent, or unclear.
- Code answers. If the questions are not already coded, an expert will go through and assign alpha or numeric codes so that reports can be generated correctly.
- Transcribe open-ended questions. If general comments or open-ended questions are included, those need to be transcribed so the results can be analyzed.
- Adjust statistical scales. In some cases, you may need to weight answers or transform answers so they are measured on a consistent scale.
- Select analysis strategy. Several data analysis strategies are available and were probably selected during the design phase. However, at this point, final considerations should be taken into account and details settled.
Complete Analysis and Reporting
This final stage of market research serves as the bridge between all those questions, numbers, and statistics and the critical business decisions you make as a result. Without this final step that brings out the key insights of your research and how those insights will help you reach your initial goals, you have nothing.
A market research expert will help you pull out relevant conclusions from your research and organize it in a compelling and convincing way to help you deliver the right message to your management team and key stakeholders.
The final market research report should have an easy-to-reference table of contents so that specific information can be found quickly as well as an executive summary that highlights the most important overarching themes.
For those who want the nitty-gritty details, you should provide the background of the company, target audience information, objectives, and goals of the company. If you have a qualitative section in your research, summarize these results first, focusing on what questions were answered through the research as well as related conclusions and necessary actions. Move onto the details of any qualitative research, how they were conducted, and the results and conclusions found.
Market research can be a powerful tool in helping any business launch itself or introduce new products or services to the marketplace. However, the time and investment can be significant, and it’s wise to work with a market research expert who can bring a level of experience to the table that will ensure reliable results that can be used to successfully accomplish your overall business goals.
Jim Whaley is CEO of OvationMR and posts frequently on The Standard Ovation and other Industry Blogs.
Ovation MR is a global provider of first party data for those seeking solutions that require data for informed business decisions. Ovation MR is a leader in delivering insights and reliable data across a variety of industry sectors around the globe consistently for market research professionals and management consultants. Visit: https://www.ovationmr.com