Writing a Good Market Research Brief
Updated: Feb 28, 2019
A clear market research brief is the foundation for a successful project.
Research companies use the brief to understand what is needed and work out how best to meet those needs. A proposal is prepared which shows the approach (methodology), timing and costs.
A briefing can be verbal, but a written document or email is preferable. Taking the time to prepare a good brief helps avoid any confusion between client and research company.
This is especially important when multiple agencies are invited to pitch for a project, and all receive the same information.
Below are the key elements for a good brief and why they are important to the market researcher:
1. Brief background to the company and the decision(s) the market research will inform
2. Objectives: what the research needs to deliver
3. Subject: what the research will be about
4. Audiences: geographies and people the research need to include
5. Practicalities: budget, timing etc.
6. Any other specific requirements
A short introduction to the company and factors leading to the need for market research provides valuable context for the researcher. The background only needs to give a starting point and pointer as the researcher can look at the company, its products/services in more detail.
It is very helpful to explain:
Why the research is needed
The decisions it will be informing
While researchers may not have worked for the company before, they may have conducted research for similar challenges. Understanding the decisions, helps inform the type of insight and level of detail needed.
A small number of clear and specific objectives (typically up to eight) provides clarity and focus. These not only focus the thinking when writing them, they also provide an opportunity for the researcher to add value by recommending refinements or to help define them if they are not already stated.
Details about the topic of the research (product, service etc.) help familiarise the researcher and can shape the final research design. The aim is to bring people quickly up to speed with the subject in question.
4. Target audience
Clear guidance should be given in terms of the audience to include in the research. For example:
Customers / non-customers
End customers / supply chain
Specific demographics, behaviours or attitudes.
5. Budget & timing
The research design needs to take into account information quality (depth and breadth of insights, number of participants and sub groups), cost and time.
This involves striking a balance that delivers robust insights without being overkill and wasting budget. The research method, number of participants, location and time available all have an impact on the cost.
It is important to highlight practical constraints such as budget and time at the outset, wherever possible as this can often dictate the approach and/or scale of project.
6. Requirements / support
Any additional or specific requirements should be highlighted, such as required location for focus groups, specific people to interview etc.
Similarly, any resources or support which will be made available to help the researcher should also be highlighted as this can save both time and money.
Finally, it can be valuable to invite the researcher to be creative, for example inviting recommendations for alternative approaches or solutions within different budget amounts.
Market research design practicalities
Ultimately, any market research can meet two out of three elements:
Projects can be high quality and delivered quickly, but not will not be cheap. Similarly, lower quality information needs to be accepted if projects have to be done fast and cheap. Having a clear brief helps the researcher focus on the most important elements.
Despite the importance, it is not uncommon for information to be missed or deliberately not shared in the brief. Sometimes this can be due to a lack of trust or an expectation that if a budget is given, the research will be priced to it. Simple steps can be taken to build trust and make full use of the researcher’s expertise:
Reputable market researchers will abide by the Market research Society (MRS) Code of Conduct which ensures confidentiality. For greater assurance, the researcher can be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) prior to sharing any sensitive materials.
Budgets can be a sensitive topic and the research cannot always be anticipated in advance which can make it hard to give a specific amount. In these situations, it can be helpful to provide both a target and ceiling or maximum amount to encourage the agency to demonstrate the value of added investment. Providing no guidance at all can result in proposals that are a shot in the dark and frustrating to both parties.
The most successful projects involve a close working relationship, with the researcher being an extension of the client’s own team and able to add value at all stages.
Taking the time to prepare a clear brief and approaching market research with a collaborative mindset will greatly enhance the success and value of projects undertaken.
We appreciate you taking the time out to read our blog and hope it proves useful in making your market research a success. For more information please visit our website. Alternatively, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.
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