Research is an important piece of any strategic marketing plan. However, too many well-intended research projects end up as merely reports full of data tables that are collecting dust on a shelf. Sound familiar?
Research should not be about gathering as many data tables as possible. Research should be about actionable insights that will help move your business further, better connect you with consumers and help you stand out. The key to conducting research that will give you these insights is to follow the right process when designing the research. Here is a list of important steps to follow when thinking about your next research project.
1. Start with the end result. You should always start any research project by asking yourself what you want to do with the results. What are the actions you want to take based on what you learn? Are you trying to develop a marketing plan, a strategy for better customer retention, introducing a new product or service or develop a new creative advertising campaign? It’s important to clearly define why you want to do research in the first place.
2. Understand what information you need. Now it is time to find out what you need to know in order to take the actions you just listed. What information do you already have and what information are you currently missing? Before you start designing the actual questions to ask in the research, start by creating a list of the missing information that is currently preventing you from taking the actions you listed in step 1.
3. Consider who you should talk to. Once you know what information you need, it’s time to think about where you will get it. Do you need to talk to your current customers, customers who used to shop your brand or customers who might have heard of you but have yet to experience what you offer? You should also think about any geographic or demographic criteria that should be considered. You can either limit your research sample to people who fill specific criteria or you can set quotas to make sure your sample includes a diverse sample of specific criteria.
4. Explore different methodologies. There are a variety of methodologies to choose from when conducting research. Examples include online surveys, intercept interviews, in-depth interviews, phone surveys, ethnographic studies and focus groups conducted either in-person or online. You cannot know which methodology will be best for your particular research study before you have fully answered the questions in steps 1 through 3. You also need to consider your research budget and any important deadlines you may have when deciding on a research methodology. Many research studies include more than one methodology to really get the information that is needed.
5. Look at research results beyond just data tables. Once the fielding of the research has been conducted, it is time to look at the results. However, research results are not about just looking at data; it’s instead about finding the insights. Finding that big AHA moment that will help guide your next steps whether you are developing a marketing strategy or a product or service strategy. When you see the results, a good question to ask is the “so what?” question. What does this mean to you and your business? What are the implications of the survey results? This is the key step that will help you tie the research results back to the notes you wrote down in step 1 of this process and ensure the findings will help you in your marketing strategies and actions.
-Maria Cammack, Director of Marketing Research and Strategy