Market Research

Market Research Success: The Missing Ingredient

If only the success of a market research project were judged by the quality of the results. But delivering a fantastic report or an inspiring final presentation isn’t enough. The missing secret ingredient: a communications plan.
answers If you are managing a research project for your organization, you will represent the project—and you will likely have internal clients that need to feel informed. Establishing and sticking to a communications plan from start to end will help ensure continued buy-in throughout the project and also prepare your audience for the final results. I have seen many projects stumble at project delivery because the client’s internal colleagues felt poorly informed about the project’s goals, scope or deliverables. The last thing you want is to spend weeks or months on a project, only to have it met with lackluster interest because internal colleagues had inaccurate expectations.

So, what to do? Here are two things that help keep buy-in and receptivity high:

1. Appoint deputies. If multiple departments or divisions of your organization will be using the final research results, get a deputy from each group. This person will be the face of the project to their own team. They know their colleagues best, and their colleagues will probably trust them more. The deputies will help distribute project updates (in a more personal manner than via mass emails), and prepare their teams for research results.

2. Establish and get agreement to clear project success criteria before the research starts. This goes a long way to making sure that at project conclusion, you will have a happy, engaged audience. With the agreed upon criteria in hand (or on whiteboard), remind your colleagues why they all agreed to the research and how they intended to use it. You will clearly map (hopefully!) how the final research results are aligned with those criteria.

Criteria should be kept simple, for example: “This project will be a success if at conclusion we….

  • Know which of 4 potential new logo designs have the broadest appeal to our target market, or
  • Identified the 4 most impactful ways to improve customer loyalty, or
  • Determined which possible new product features will most likely support a price premium position

While these are just 2 parts of a communications plan, I think they illustrate that with a little planning common end-of-project problems can be avoided.
If you have any questions or comments about these suggestions, please add them here, or call the blog comments line at 508 691 6004. Thanks!


Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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10 thoughts on “Market Research Success: The Missing Ingredient”

  1. I like the two specific suggestions you give. Bt what about after the project? Often times we get a lot of enthusiasm at a final presentation then 2 weeks later I find out that nobody has done anything with the research. Then what do we do?

    1. Thanks Judy. Great point. First, you are not alone. I see this a lot. Here are a few things to try.
      1. If you feel people are not taking action because they didn’t get” the data, try meeting 1:1 with some of them. Often, people will ask questions in a private meeting that they would not ask in a group presentation. I often find that a little individual coaching on what the research results mean helps people be more comfortable in actually using them to make decisions.
      2. Get an executive endorser to lead by example. Is there an executive in your firm that is using the data? If so, broadcast that to the rest of the team. Sometimes they just need to see someone else using the results to help them be bold enough to do the same.
      3. If you worked with a full-service research agency, ask them to come in and share case studies. They have likely done similar studies for other clients in the past—and will be able to share how those other companies used the data to make decisions, inform strategies, and so on.

      If you want to discuss this more, please feel free to call me at 508.691.6004 ext 705.

  2. I like the idea of using deputies. I can see how that helps. But what if the deputies are research newbies? How could they really be effective in the role?

    1. In this role, personality and enthusiasm can really overcome lack of deep expertise. If they are outgoing people who can communicate effectively, then you’re in good shape. Of course, then it is up to you to provide info they can share easily. For example, give them pre-written status updates they can share–but be sure to talk the content over with them first. And listen to their questions: if the deputies have questions, they are likely the questions that their peers will ask–so be sure to give them simple, clear answers they can comfortably and confidently share with their teams.

  3. I always try to get agreement on project success criteria…but that ends up dragging on and on and taking way too much time. Any suggestions for making it a faster process?

  4. But what if the organization is loathe to set such disciplined goals because they’re afraid such goals cannot be met? How do you inspire the necessary confidence?

  5. You make an excellent point, Paul. Leadership is a key success factor in these cases. Having an executive endorser who leads by example is often necessary. For example, having an executive endorser announce his/her intentions for how they will use the research and why they feel passionate about the goals, does help. Of course, that gets squandered if the executive comes in, makes a statement, but then doesn’t follow-up! People notice.

  6. I have a different problem. Our management team will fund market research, but is averse to results that don’t fit their preconceptions. Have you run into this kind of situation? How can I help the team get balanced and actionable results?

    1. Oh yes, I have seen this many times! Some folks want research to simply confirm their beliefs. They can get uncomfortable when they learn things that are new or contrary. Here are two suggestions:
      1. Before the research begins, have your stakeholders participate in a hypothesis generation meeting. You can do this in-house, or have your market research agency help facilitate. Basically, as a team, you want to generate as many relevant hypotheses as you can. For example, let’s say you are planning to do a product concept testing study to gauge potential demand for a new product or service. You can ask everyone to help generate a list of all the reasons why response might be positive, and all the reasons why it might be negative. Hearing each other identify the possible “bad news”, even though theoretical, can really help open minds to the possibility of negative or unexpected results come the end of the project. (And the hypotheses you generate will be important inputs to questionnaire design, etc.)

      2. When the research kicks-off, communicate very clearly about how you will make sure you have qualified research participants. When people don’t like research results, they usually say, “These results can’t be right; you must have surveyed people who were not qualified.” So take a preemptive position; explain how qualified people will be contacted, and what specific criteria you will use to qualify them (budget authority? Job function? Current use of relevant products or services?). If your team feels confident they are hearing the opinions and attitudes of people whose opinions matter, they will be more open to whatever the research comes back with.

      I hope that helped, Wayne. Please feel free to call me if you want to discuss further.

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