Five practical steps to help organisations improve the quality of their market research


Making Market Research Work for You

Let me start challenging the myth that market research is too expensive for all but the largest companies to consider.  A bold statement perhaps, but email and the internet have enabled us to reach people far easier than ever before and have spawned a wide variety of do-it-yourself tools, such as SurveyMonkey. The Internet is also a fantastic resource for information about different research techniques and example questionnaires, giving both knowledge and confidence.

Market research can be a powerful aid to decision making in any organisation.  I am all in favour of companies making use of the resources available and conducting their own research, but with the caveat that it still needs to be done properly. 

I believe there are five key areas that underpin successful market research.


  1. Define the critical information need

In my opinion, market research is only worth doing when the results can be translated into action, or will directly influence a business decision.  This may sound obvious, but it can be easy for market research to ‘miss the point’ without a clear focus on the end goal. 

Understanding what you need to know, rather than what would be ‘nice to know’ helps maintain a clear focus that defines the type of research needed.  This should be the starting point, not ‘we are going to do a survey’. 


  1. Design the research around your critical information need

Good market research design involves considering four main elements:

  1. What is the financial implication of business decision?
  2. Who can give you the critical information?
  3. What is the best way to engage with them?
  4. How do you make sure they feel their feedback is valued?

The size and scope of a market research project should be relative to the risk and financial implications of the business decision it influences.

Market research splits into two broad types:


How the research will be perceived is another important consideration. For example, conducting a personal interview with a key customer has far greater perceived value than emailing them an e-survey to complete.  Participants must always feel their feedback is valued.

‘Thank you’ gifts or a donation to charity made on their behalf can be appreciated by participants. Used properly, an incentive can encourage more people to give feedback. However:

  • Any incentive must be seen as a gift, rather than payment for their time.
  • It should only be given for honest feedback, never to encourage guests to give positive feedback.  


  1. Focus, focus and more focus

A good design principle is to imagine a funnel: questions start off broad and then become more specific to the key issue. This eases the participant in gently, and gives you a more considered response to your critical information needs.   The participants should be taken through the research in a simple, logical way using language that is clear and easy to understand. 

A clear focus helps avoid asking too many questions. 

The wording of each question needs to be clear and easily understood. Common mistakes include:

  • Assuming knowledge / asking questions that people are unable to answer
  • Asking two questions in one
  • Asking leading or biased questions

One process I encourage clients to follow is to imagine the answers that will come back (e.g. when reviewing a questionnaire). Any aspects that lead to a 'So what?' response should be replaced with content that is of greater interest and more importantly, is actionable.


  1. Manage expectations

It is important to keep all your promises. If you say it will take five minutes to complete, make sure it does.

Market research can raise expectations. Therefore, it is not advisable to ask for feedback around issues you are unable or unwilling to change. 

Communicating with participants is important to manage expectations throughout the research. It is especially important after, when you tell them what you have done as a result of their feedback.  This can help strengthen relationships and increase the chance of people giving feedback next time you ask. 


  1. Beware of bias

One of the benefits of market research should be its objectivity. It should present the voice of the customer/employee etc in relation to the specific information need.  Care needs to be taken throughout to ensure the research is not biased, either in how the questions are asked or in how the results are interpreted.


I hope these five points help improve your activities and I welcome any questions and alternative points of view. 


If you would like to know more or have a project in mind, please get in touch. We will be happy to help.

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