Learning about your target market can be a challenge that requires patience and creativity, but it pays off time and time again as you are able to create more successful marketing efforts based on your findings. In order to conduct meaningful market research, it is essential to create a strategy that will deliver unbiased and comprehensive results.
Without a well-thought out plan, you run the risk of investing in and gathering a large amount of data that is either skewed or irrelevant.
Before planning and implementing a marketing research plan, know what it is that you are seeking and how to get it.
Knowing what not to do can be just as important as knowing what to do. Below are the top “do’s and don’ts” of marketing research that will aid in the success of the research process.
When conducting primary research, there are many obstacles that need to be addressed. Some of the most common obstacles are; low response rate, lack of sample diversity, and information that gets outdated by the time of completion of research.
Here are some market research “Do’s” to help combat these issues:
1. Know exactly what you want when you start.
Define your goals and objectives from the start. You don’t want to be the person that invests time and money into marketing research just to find that the data does not answer the essential questions that you need.
2. Freshen up on statistical theory.
Since much of marketing research is quantitative, learn as much as you can about the basics of statistics to ensure that you are able to turn your data into useful information through accurate analysis.
3. Include the time required up front.
Many people avoid surveys because they have been burned by previous experiences of sitting in front of a computer for 30 minutes after being promised that the survey would take only 5 min of their time. While the participants may have finished the full 30 minutes, they are less likely to participate in research in the future. Letting potential participants know up front the exact amount of time it would take to complete the survey can increase response rate.
4. Explain the purpose of the research.
People are motivated to participate in research if they know that their time is being spent towards a good cause. Even if you are just trying to gauge customer satisfaction, when people understand the purpose of the research they are much more likely to answer a few questions.
5. Provide an incentive for participation.
Remember that you are asking for one of the most valuable asset that anyone has – time. Depending on what kind of research you are doing, include some kind of incentive or reward and show appreciation for the person’s time. If you are conducting a focus group with a small number of people, consider giving free gift cards or even cash. For surveys – that require a much larger sample than focus groups – you could offer a chance for 1-5 participants to win a cool prize like an iPad.
6. Use the right sample size/technique.
There are various types of sampling techniques for different purposes like random sampling, cluster sampling, and stratified sampling. Know ahead of time if you are trying to target a broad audience or a specific customer segment and choose the correct sampling technique accordingly. It is important to be mindful of potential factors that could skew the data like heavy weightage on certain demographics. For example, if you have a sample with a high percentage of one gender (unless you are specifically researching that demographic) then you might end up with data that represents only the views held by the particular gender group.
7. Automate where it makes sense.
For general research questions and close ended questions like “are you satisfied with you online shopping experience today”, it is beneficial to use an automated approach – by limiting the answer choices to a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ . This saves the respondents time and makes it a lot easier for you while collating and interpreting answers. However, for highly specific research or research directed at a niche market, using an automated approach might not always be appropriate.
Knowing what not to do in marketing research can save you valuable time and money. Consider the following points before starting your research to make sure that you are not alienating customers or generating irrelevant data. Don’t:
1. Ask biased questions.
Especially for surveys, make sure that all of your verbiage is free from influence and persuasion. Don’t ask questions like “would you say your customer service experience today was good?” because these questions sub-consciously can influence participants to say what you want to hear. Instead, reword the question to neutral verbiage like “how was your customer service experience today?”
2. Allow pride to skew analysis.
Everyone knows how easy it can be to lie with statistics. Be wary of results that look too good to be true, most of the time they aren’t. It is great to find that your business is doing something right, but the ultimate point of the research is to find out what you are doing wrong so that you can improve.
3. Use an excessive sample size.
While in general, the rule of thumb is that a larger sample size equates to more accurate data as the impact of outliers decreases. However, larger samples usually cost more both in money and time to analyze the data. It is fairly easy to calculate your required sample size based on whatever confidence interval you are aiming for. The increase in the accuracy of your results slows down tremendously once it reaches a certain point to the extent that an extra 1000 people could only create .01% more accurate results.
4. Create long, time intensive surveys.
There is not much worse than offering your opinions and time only to be duped into an hour long survey. Keep your research simple, short, and to the point.
5. Ask important questions at the end.
The first questions of a survey are always more likely to be answered fully and honestly than the last ones. If one of the key metrics of your survey is to know how many men like product X, don’t ask for gender at the end of the survey.
Marketing research requires thorough planning and efficient execution. Make sure that you know what to do and what not to do up front so that you use your budget in the most effective manner. Feel free to share your “dos and don’ts” of marketing research in the comments.