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"Ten Tips for Conducting Research"
SMARTi Solutions Newsletter, August 2003

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The decision to conduct market research generally derives from a major question or problem in the marketing of some product or service. As with so many things, there are several approaches you can use. Here are some things to keep in mind that can help you plan better for a successful outcome.

  1. Start with your objectives.
    You must be clear on your reasons for the research. If possible, hold a strategy session and put your objectives in writing. This will help focus your effort throughout the process.
  2. Be clear on how you want to use the results.
    Are you making a go/no go decision on a new product or an ad campaign? Are you looking for the optimal target for your product or service? Does the research have to do with your company's or brand's image? Is it for publicity? The answers to these questions will determine the scope and methodology of your research.
  3. Be as specific as you can about who you want to interview.
    Some people are harder to find than others. Some groups are more expensive to research than others. Some groups are so narrowly defined that conducting a large-scale survey is unfeasible. Sometimes you may need to interview people in other countries. This information also helps determine the best and most cost effective way to reach your target audience.
  4. Is your target audience homogeneous or diverse?
    Very often, the size of the survey/research sample is dependent on the diversity of the target population. That is because you need a minimum number of subjects for each significant segment in the study; e.g., genders, age groups, product usage groups.
  5. Do you need to show samples, storyboards, or prototypes?
    You may want to show product samples or prototypes, advertising slogans, storyboards, or positioning statements. This will also impact the specific approach used and the associated costs: focus groups or a central location intercept (mall interviewing); sending things through the mail/FedEx and even some online techniques.
  6. Don't wait until the last minute.
    It is important to know when you absolutely need to have results. You should plan on spending three to six months (depending on the scope of the effort) on your study, from the initial planning to deliverables.
  7. Try to keep your team small.
    The more people having input into your research, the more likely you are to have a study that is unfocused and ultimately, unsatisfying. If you can limit the team to your marketing director, product manager, and ad agency (if appropriate), it will go quicker and better.
  8. Make sure you understand what the deliverables are.
    Most of the time, you can expect a detailed written report at the conclusion of a research study which can include an executive summary, charts and tables or verbatims and quotes from respondents. The more detailed the report the more it will cost, so if you have to cut corners anywhere, ask for a less detailed report.
  9. Don't solicit too many proposals.
    Naturally, you want to choose a research consultant carefully, especially if you are spending a significant part of your budget on this effort. However, if you solicit more than three proposals, you could get bogged down in trying to compare “apples to apples.” Generally speaking, you want a research consultant to be a good partner. He or she should be a good listener and a good advisor, able to offer the best research approach for your needs.
  10. What about cost?
    Primary research can cost anywhere from $5,000 to over $100,000. Under-funding the effort will generally produce results that are barely useful, thereby having wasted your limited resources. Over-funding is never a good idea either. Fortunately, as stated earlier, there are a number of ways to accomplish nearly any objective, so you have choices. Be candid with your consultant so that you receive a meaningful proposal.

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