Market research is a useful tool, and when properly applied can yield business-improving results. But of course, it is a big investment: taking the time and money to do it right. So how can you make that go/no go decision with confidence? Complete these 4 easy tasks and you’ll be in good shape.
- Write down your “Then what” statements. For example, are you thinking about a project to gauge potential interest in a new product? OK, so imagine it is the end of that project: then what will you do? If the market research results come back negative, how will you use them? Will the product’s attributes be modified based on the market research results—or are they already set in stone? Will the results notably influence how the product will be marketed? Be honest: if you do this research, then what? Will your organization actually use it? Too often people just do research to confirm what they already know. Do you really want to spend the time and money if the research is going to be ignored anyway?
- Check for existing research. Check with your internal market research department, professional associations, and ad agency. Also check market research aggregators (like marketresearch.com, mindbranch.com and the-infoshop.com) and trade journals. Be sure you know what relevant market research already exists. First, you may find that the data you need is already available, and for a lot less money than doing a new study from scratch. Second, existing research might be available that provides important context. For example, let’s say you are in the alcoholic beverage business, and you want to do some ad testing for a new vodka brand. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know if a market research firm recently published a study about your competitors’ advertising effectiveness?
- Assess your team’s commitment. In most cases, research involves a team of at least 3 or 4 people. One person acts as the project manager (which may mean managing an outside market research agency or corralling in-house resources), usually 1 or 2 as content area experts (who may contribute to questionnaire design, etc) and usually at least 1 or 2 intended internal clients are involved (the people who will use the data at project conclusion). Now considering who is on your team, do your realistically think they will give this project their time and attention? Will they contribute to decision making? Attend milestone meetings? Be supportive when the final results come in? I have seen some potentially great market research projects fail because the person driving the project received inadequate support from internal colleagues.
- Confirm your budget parameters. How much budget do you have? If the project hits a roadblock, is there extra budget available? Do you have enough money to realistically hire a market research agency or do it in-house? If you do, great. If not, you may need to just dig deeper into desk research and other data sources.
So that’s your checklist. If you can answer these four questions, you should be in good shape to make your go/no go decision:
- Will the market research results be used?
- Is it true that no existing data is available that can be used instead?
- Do you have a team that will allocate enough time to the project?
- Do you have adequate budget?
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