According to a study conducted by Gartner’s CEB and shared by Harvard Business Review, marketers rely on data to make just 11% of their customer-related decisions. Considering “data” is very much the go-to term that businesses are told to prioritize and invest in these days, it’s clear there is still quite a large opportunity for businesses to collect and use data for decision-making.
Quantitative market research is one of the best methods to gather actionable data. There is no better way to determine if products, services, brands, and promotional campaigns will succeed than going directly to target audience and getting their opinions. However, throwing together a survey and waiting for the results to flow in isn’t enough. To gather reliable data for decision-making, you need to approach market research strategically.
There are some key factors you need to consider before you launch a market research survey because the decisions you make before you launch that survey could drastically affect the results. Ten of those factors are discussed below.
Before you start any market research project, it’s essential that you define very specific goals. By identifying just one or two goals for your study, the questions you ask will be more focused. You’ll eliminate the need to ask too many questions, which can annoy respondents and cause them to abandon your survey before they complete it. Only ask questions that you need to know the answers to in order to reach your one or two defined goals. AYTM helps reduce survey fatigue by limiting the number of questions and length of questions that can be included in every survey.
What are you looking for? Determine the specific data you need to collect in order to meet your goals, and then create survey questions that will prompt respondents to give you that data. For example, if you have a long list that includes your products and all of your competitors’ similar products, you might want to conduct a Maximum Difference Scaling (MaxDiff) test to determine which products consumers prefer. Rather than providing a long list of product names, AYTM’s Advanced MaxDiff test allows respondents to rate products in bite-sized groups of four. You can see how it works in the video below.
How much money do you have to invest in a market research study? Fortunately, quantitative market research doesn’t have to be expensive with tools like AYTM, but you do need to consider a few more things before you move forward. Do you know what questions to ask to collect the data you need? Do you know how to analyze and interpret the results? If not, you might need to hire someone to help you, which will add to your budget.
How quickly do you need data? Traditional offline market research studies can take weeks or months to complete (they also tend to be quite expensive). Online surveys conducted using a do-it-yourself survey tool like AYTM are much quicker. For example, a survey of 1,000 American adults could be fulfilled within hours.
When you conduct a market research survey, the audience of people you want to take the survey should be extremely well-defined. Be specific and identify gender, age, education, income, marital status, geographic location, and other demographic traits as well as personality traits such as hobbies, publications they read, and so on. If you’re not asking the right people to take your survey, then the results you get could be meaningless. In fact, the results could point you in the wrong direction, so always define your target market very specifically.
6. Survey Questions
Writing survey questions takes some thought. First, you need to determine what questions you should ask in order to gather the data you need to meet your goals. Second, you need to make sure you write those questions in a language respondents will understand. Most often, it’s best to avoid using jargon, abbreviations, and slang unless you’re certain your target audience is familiar with those terms.
Third, be certain the phrasing of your questions doesn’t create bias among your respondents. For example, a leading question might ask, “Do responsible parents allow their children to get vaccinations?” The question is phrased in a way that suggests parents who don’t support childhood vaccinations are irresponsible. It creates a negative connotation that is likely to deliver biased results. Instead, the question could simply say, “Do you believe children should be required to get vaccinations?”
Finally, you should have multiple people review your survey for clarity. When you write survey questions, they all make sense to you, but you’d be surprised how others might interpret them!
7. Analyze and Interpret
Here’s where things get tricky. If you don’t know how to analyze and interpret market research data, then all of the time and money invested in your survey so far will have been for naught. It doesn’t matter how much data you collect, all of those numbers are useless if you don’t know what they mean to your goals and your business. You have two options here. First, you can hire a market research expert or company to help you if you don’t have the skills on your team. Alternately, you can use a do-it-yourself market research tool like AYTM which extrapolates all of the collected data for you and presents it in easy-to-understand reports.
8. Get Help
You might need help writing your survey, administering your survey, analyzing the data, and interpreting the results. You might not have the expertise in house to do all of these things, but market research tools like AYTM actually make it possible to do it yourself. With that said, there are times when it can help to have an expert keep you on track so you know your investment is yielding usable results. At that point, working with a full-service market research intelligence team is a great option.
9. Decisions and Action
Research is useless if you don’t take action based on the results. The hard part can be when the results don’t match your original hypothesis. Often, people go into a market research study with a predetermined outcome in mind. If the results don’t affirm their original opinions or the results uncover faults in a product or business, they’ll ignore them and claim the data is flawed.
Trust me, I’ve been in many corporate executive meetings where this has happened, or I’ve been asked to focus only on specific results that affirm a CEO’s desires and ignore the other data. Bottom-line, if you’re not going to listen to what the data tells you, don’t bother investing in market research. The key is to be prepared to learn that your original assumptions were not correct, and then, make the changes needed to rectify problems and seize opportunities.
Market research should be an ongoing process. When you complete a survey and launch a new product as a result, follow up with customer satisfaction research. When a survey tells you how to position your brand against competitors’ brands, don’t assume those results will hold true forever. Follow-up to ensure consumers’ perception of your brand and other brands haven’t changed.
Every time you invest in market research, you learn more about your customers, your competitors, and the market. This data is so valuable, so make sure you’re collecting it and using it!