2nd June, 2011
It’s always an honour when someone asks your advice on how to approach a market research project, the sort of things they should be thinking about and to evaluate their thoughts so far.
Such requests often come from prospective clients, looking to create a formal brief and work out the size of budget they should assign to the work.
Invariably there are no wholly right or wholly wrong approaches, just good and bad practice. Setting objectives and understanding the end goal is essential to creating a solid approach. But sometimes the desired route to the end goal is not achievable within budgets available and therefore we have to temper expectations or adjust the route to deliver the most applicable, reliable and value for money product.
The results of market research are a management tool, to be used in conjunction with other management information such as sales figures, customer feedback, or just good knowledge and experience. Traditionally market researchers have only been there to apply the science and facilitate the interpretation. In the vein of ‘asking the audience’ on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, even with an overwhelming vote of confidence for one of the possible answers, it is still the contestant who makes the final decision, not the audience. So the market researcher will present the evidence and it’s down to managers to add context, experience and build into their business.
In a recent conversation I was tongue-in-cheek accused of hedging my bets. In fact it was not myself that I was looking out for, but quite the opposite, trying to reduce risk for a professional friend and potential client. I thought I was helping them by discussing the options, presenting the trade-off science, and overall trying to provide good support into what should be considered to develop the research brief.
Sometimes people just need a straight answer of what they should do. We have to believe that they trust that we know best: spare them the details and just say how it is.