Did you make any resolutions as you “Rang in the New Year” with champagne and noisemakers? Regardless of how you celebrated (sparkling cider and jazz?), and what you might have resolved, NOW is the perfect time for this “NEW New Year’s Resolution”: Make 2016 your best market research year yet. Answer the five questions below, and you will be on your way.
Q1. What worked in 2015, and should be replicated in 2016?
The best and easiest way to start looking ahead, is by looking back to see what worked especially well.
When reflecting back on an entire year, consider those projects that were particularly successful and simply require a “refresh” for 2016. After all, most market research has a “shelf life”: data gets stale, and some gets stale faster than others.
Also, did some 2015 market research projects work really well in terms of methodology, indicating an area of greater opportunity? For example, maybe 2015 was the year you tried social media analysis for the first time and the resulting insights were helpful? Or perhaps you started to dabble in video IDIs, and are ready to evaluate platforms that will allow you to scale?
Take a good look at each project, tool, and method that worked well in 2015: success is almost always a solid foundation to build upon. Keep up those market research best practices!
Q2. Also looking back on 2015, what didn’t work—and why?
So often in market research, we go straight from one project another, rarely taking the time to do what some people call a “postmortem.” Once a project is done, it makes sense to take time to do a brutally honest evaluation. That way, a mistake doesn’t have the chance to do a “repeat performance.”
We may be talking about significant errors, or subtle oversights with not-so-subtle consequences. Maybe standardized survey questions are out of date? Perhaps project management tools need to be revisited? Were there specific sources of client dissatisfaction? The point is to identify 2015 problems precisely and candidly, so we can prepare to avoid them in 2016.
Q3. Do you have a calendar for 2016 market research projects?
This is not an easy task, especially for those who work in a market research supplier situation (as opposed to being employed “inside” a brand, as an internal market researcher).
Regardless, your advance efforts will pay off. Even if you can identify just two or three major 2016 projects, a little early planning can make a world of difference in keeping workload from becoming work-overload. Advance planning can help with sampling, staffing, or tool requirements.
As you put together your 2016 calendar, talk to your clients (external or internal) about what they envision as upcoming needs. Planning ahead makes everyone feel confident, so go ahead and ask your clients some specific questions now. For example:
- “Do you have brand awareness research that needs to be refreshed?”
- “How long has it been since you’ve sought to discover emerging customer needs?”
- “Is 2016 the year you should refresh your market segmentation model?”
- “Are you planning any new marketing campaigns that will need effectiveness measurements?”
- “If you could learn one thing about your target market in 2016 what would it be?”
- “Are there organizational strategic initiatives that will need customer insight inputs?”
Asking these kinds of questions is a great way of uncovering new needs for 2016. Do it now, before all the inevitable day-to-day concerns have a chance to obscure the strategic view.
Q4. Will your market research team need new tools or skills in 2016?
One trend is clear: the skillset required for successful research is changing. Helping your researchers keep up with those changes can improve their job satisfaction—and performance.
For 2016, what are the skills or tools worth investing in, to improve the speed, accuracy, and actionability of your research? Is it time to start learning more about predictive analytics? Is it time to look at new tools for uncovering emotional responses? Is it time to rethink how you craft your deliverables?
Different research teams will have different answers. But as an indication of general trends, two of the Research Rockstar classes we are seeing a great deal of demand for right now are Infographics for Market Researchers, and Excel for Market Research Data Analysis (now that Excel includes so many powerful statistical tools).
Q5. Do you need to boost your expert status in 2016?
You are a market research professional. Do your colleagues and clients think of you as a market research expert? Do they understand that market research is a skill and knowledge-intensive profession?
Some other professions are more widely perceived by their client base as having important credentials. Take Certified Public Accountants, for example. Most businesspeople understand there is a certification process, and that CPAs have to complete continuous education to maintain their credential.
The fact is, many people don’t realize market research also involves credentials. Of course, there are different types of credentials in our field:
- An M.S. in market research, available from several universities
- An accumulation of market research experience
- A training completion certificate from one of the market research training firms such as Burke, Research Rockstar, Riva, and the University of Georgia
- A professional certification:
Remember: those “New Year’s Eve 2017” parties are just eleven short months away!
Take a good, honest look at the five questions above—then make time to answer them. Do so, and you will really have something to celebrate when New Year’s Eve 2017 rolls around.