Before we start answering the question of how to get the most out of your market research, we have to be clear what exactly we mean by getting the most from market research.
Broadly, we can say that getting the most out of market research involves optimizing profitable growth of our business using the findings of the research exercise.
How can we do it?
The two answers that emerge immediately are:
- Design and implement the market research exercise to produce findings that help profitable growth and
- Act upon the findings of the research so that the findings do not simply remain on paper.
In this post, we focus on these two aspects.
Plan the Market Research Exercise in a Purposeful Manner
Decide on the Goal of Market Research
The market research should be done to find answers to specific questions. If you don’t know what you want to find out, the research will be a meaningless exercise.
Articulate the goal you are seeking to achieve. The goals can be to find out:
- Prospects for a new product or service:
- Is there a demand for a new product or service you plan to introduce into the market?
- What features do customers expect in the product or service considering how they will use it?
- What price will they be willing to pay for the product or service?
- Competition in the market:
- Who are the competitors in the market (for existing products, or the new planned product)?
- What do they offer in terms of benefits, features, price, delivery terms, etc.?
- Are customers dissatisfied with any of these aspects of competitor offers?
- Brand Awareness:
- Which brands (similar to yours) do customers in the market recall quickly?
- Do they recall your brand?
- Where do you stand vis a vis other brands?
- Customer satisfaction with your offers:
- How satisfied are your customers with your offers? Would they, for example, recommend it to a friend or colleague?
- How easy do they find it to receive help and support for using the product?
- What do they feel about your pricing?
The questions we have included above are only illustrative. Under each goal, there could be other questions that are quite relevant. What should be noticed is that the questions are tailored to the goals.
The above are only examples. There could be several other goals for a market research exercise. Provided the goals are relevant for driving your business growth, you might find it worthwhile to do market research to get needed information.
Here is an example: McDonalds, the food chain, found that their sales were declining owing to a public perception that their offers are unhealthy. They did market research and changed their food offers based on the findings. They were now in a position to counter the health perception through appropriate campaigns that pointed to the healthy food items on offer.
Do be careful, however. Will the benefit you get be worth the cost of the market research?
You should also clearly define the market you want to study. This can be a local market, a wider region that you can serve, the national market or a specific country.
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Filter out Persons not in Your Audience
Before you present the main questions to a survey respondent, you should check whether the respondent belongs to the audience you want to target. Is this person’s views important to achieve the research goal?
For example, if you are trying to find customer satisfaction about your product or service, only people who have used it will be able to provide useful answers. Hence, your first question should be whether the respondent has used the product or service. If the answer is NO, then you shouldn’t waste time asking the other questions.
Without such filtering questions, you could waste a lot of your time and effort.
Frame Right Questions
Once you have decided the goals of the market research, and what you want to find out, frame your questions in a way that you will receive needed information.
Framing right questions is not a simple matter. It requires significant expertise, particularly if you are trying to find out people’s attitudes. People might not be willing, or even able, to express these correctly. You might have to ask incidental questions that will help you find out what you really want to learn.
Additionally, face to face interviews will help you learn more from the facial expressions and body language of the respondent. Wherever possible use such face to face interactions.
In the case of the McDonalds example mentioned above, they would have included a list of food items to identify which ones customers preferred, instead of simply asking what specific items they wanted. Such a list, including only those items that MacDonalds can serve, would make it easy for respondents to answer the question more meaningfully.
In the case of new products and services, you will need to observe the respondent using a prototype to arrive at authentic findings. Respondents are not likely to be able to provide authentic responses to something they are unfamiliar with.
A prototype will have the basic functionality but not all the features of the proposed product or service. You might be able to mock up such a prototype if you go about it creatively.
Do an effective Secondary Research
Secondary research can provide you with a perspective that will help you fine tune the primary research. You will learn what others have already found about the market and customers.
However, you have to be very careful while doing the secondary research. With the arrival of the Internet, there is so much information online that you could find yourself absolutely confused. You will find that a lot of the available information is not authentic. So your first task will be to identify authentic sources.
One way to do it is to compare data from one source with that from different sources. Are they consistent? Another option is to use only reputed sources of information, such as government publications and reputed research companies.
Secondly, you have to eliminate data that are irrelevant to your purpose. This is particularly important because there is so much interesting information on the web that you could easily get distracted.
Become aware of all the different kinds of sources for data. In addition to formal sources such as census statistics and research reports, there are sources such as social media, competitor websites and product review sites (and more) that can provide significant insights about the market and customers. Just use these sources carefully and meaningfully as mentioned above.
Let us now look at how to ensure that your findings are acted upon.
Present Your Findings in a way that Facilitates Action
Standard PowerPoint presentations (or even worse, a long-winded hundred-page report) is not the best option to present your research findings if you want these to be acted upon.
Instead, use modern technology to present the report in a way that makes it easy to act. For example, start with the conclusions of the research in a dashboard, and allow the audience to drill down into the details. Use visual presentations on the dashboard to get across the message immediately.
You can see an example of such a presentation at this Datapine post.
Another important thing is to share the research findings among your employees. It is these employees who make things happen and unless they know about current realities, they might continue to act in the same old ways. And that will mean you will not gain full benefits from the research exercise.
Add Value to Market Research by Making it an Ongoing Exercise
In today’s world, everything is changing fast:
- Emerging technologies render existing products obsolete.
- Start up companies might come up with new business models that make your competitive advantages disappear.
- Government actions such as new import tariffs might make specific products far more expensive.
A continuing program of market research, both in-house and independent, can help you keep in touch with developments that affect you.
The best companies reinvent themselves, transform themselves into digital natives, to keep themselves competitive in the market. Only continuing awareness of what is happening in the market can make this possible (and meaningful).
Getting the most from your market research involves two things. One, doing a proper market research exercise that produces authentic, relevant and actionable findings of value to the business. Two, presenting the findings in a way that facilitates understanding and action, throughout the organisation. In this post we looked at ways to achieve these two things.
We noted that market research findings will be relevant only when they are done to meet a clearly articulated business goal. The goal will make it possible to identify the specific data needed and ask the right questions.
For the market research to be acted upon, the findings should be shared among the employees of the organisation so that they can change their approach as needed. Secondly, the findings should be presented in a way that facilitates understanding and action. We suggested certain practices that can help with these.