If you really want to get the most from your market research investments, the first step is to do a brutally honest audit of your current research resources. Yes, it takes time. But with a structured approach, I have seen it completed in as little as ten business days.
Why is this a worthwhile exercise? Because a systematic audit will identify areas of over and under-spending. And with that information in-hand, you can make the difficult, but necessary, budget decisions.
In my experience, the most effective market research audits follow a gap analysis approach. Briefly:
1. Crafting the optimal scenario. Working with the internal colleagues who actually use research results, to create an ideal research scenario for the next 12-month budget period. This includes answering questions such as:
- What decisions will they be making in the next 12 months, and what insights and information do they want to support those decisions?
- What company initiatives will be in place (new or ongoing), and how can research be aligned to support them?
- Ideally, how would they like to see research initiated and shared?
- Ideally, what do they want their role to be in the research process?
2. Assessing the current reality. Taking an inventory of current research resources, processes, and investments. This involves answering questions such as:
- What research has been acquired in the past year, including investments in both primary and secondary research? How satisfied are you with these investments?
- What ongoing research (such as trackers) is typically done in a given year? What research is already considered part of the plan for the upcoming year?
- What functional areas are conducting their own research, even informally?
- How much money and time has been spent on acquiring, managing, and delivering research results?
- What tools are in place (for conducting, analyzing, sharing or reporting research)?
- What research firms supply your organization, and how much of the past year’s budget did they each account for?
- What polices and practices exist that impact how research is initiated, used, shared, and assessed?
Various options exist for creating a gap comparison framework. Visual displays can be used to highlight key gaps, such as in the simple example using a radar chart below. A rank comparison diagram can also be used to visually display spending by research topic or source in the current year versus what was revealed as ideal for the upcoming year. As market researchers we know that a graphical display can really help tell a story–and this applies to the market research audit as well.
Profiling the gap between the ideal scenario and the current reality will identify areas of under and over-spending, and can also reveal the success factors that are most relevant to your organization. Yes it takes time, but even a quick exercise will help you get the most from your market research budget.
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