There’s no doubt that modern technology has revolutionized the ways we gather information on customers and competitors. We use tools to conduct consumer surveys, provide customer support, develop dynamic campaigns, and more. This is all well and good, but
no matter how advanced your technology, it’s what you bring to market research that determines what you get out of the process.
We’re going to get back to basics in this article and dig into conducting market research in today’s world.
The Six Steps of Proper Market Research
No matter how large or small the project, failure to systematize the process and attend to each stage can render your collected data completely worthless.
1. Define Your Objective
Define your reasons for conducting research in the first place, making sure to include both goal and rationale within your research mission statement. If your company is looking for a new geographic location, for example, you might research consumers living in certain areas to inform the relocation decision.
Your research objective informs what kind of data is worth collecting. There is truly a wealth of accessible data out there today, and its only getting bigger. Don’t get distracted by the sheer volume; focus only on the information relevant to your goals.
2. Define Your Research Design
During this step, you’ll plan out most of your initiative, including:
- Which research method(s) you’ll use to uncover information and data
- Who your target respondents will be (or where you’ll collect information from)
- The tools you’ll use to collect, organize, and analyze your data
For an in-depth look at the most commonly used market research methods — and when to use each — check out this guide from My Market Research Methods.
As is the case in all areas of business, the more thought-out the plan, the better the results. Before diving headfirst into your research, take a step back and map out the process.
3. Create Your Research Tool
Here, your goal is to develop the best possible methodology to elicit the information most important to your study. This tool, or tools, should also ensure that the data paints a full and accurate picture of the current landscape.
When reaching out to your respondents through surveys, interviews, or focus groups, clearly define their role and your expectations. Formulate your questions to draw out concise and relevant feedback from your research groups.
4. Conduct the Research
If minor hiccups occur (as they almost always do), take note of them as you fix mistakes and fine-tune your approach. Remain objective, critical, and “meta” when conducting research and tracking your progress.
5. Organize and Begin Analyzing Your Data
Your goal is to isolate the trends, anomalies, and other details within your data. There’s no one way to go about doing this. In fact, it can be beneficial to organize your data in a variety of formats to see if you can uncover additional findings.
You will, however, want to explore your data from the following three perspectives:
- Objectively: Try to look at your data without any preconceived notions or biases
- From Your Perspective: Consider what the data means, or appears to mean, based on your experience as a marketer
- From Your Customers’ Perspective: Analyze the findings from their point of view
By covering all these theoretical angles, you’ll gain the most accurate picture of what the data is saying.
6. Interpret and Communicate Your Findings
The final stage of the process takes everything you’ve learned throughout your study and presents it in a meaningful and understandable way.
Note that much of your presentation depends on your audience, and should be tweaked as such. For example, when presenting to the marketing team, you’d likely explain how to improve things like web copy and brand messaging. If addressing C-suite executives, you’ll want to focus on changes that will impact the company’s bottom line.
Again, it’s not the data you collect that’s so valuable; it’s interpreting it in a way that will have a positive impact on your business. Insist that all involved stakeholders have a clear understanding of the meaning behind your findings — and are empowered to use those findings to take appropriate action.