Tuesday, March 13, 2012

4 Steps to Designing a Market Research Study

When setting up a market research project there are four key steps to follow to ensure your study is robust and you get information that is relevant. These are; identifying your business objectives, defining your research objectives, planning your approach, and defining your sample. Once you have followed these steps you are ready to field your study and collect survey data.

Step One - Identify the Objective

Clearly defining the business objective - the reason why you need to carry out the market research, is the most important step in the research process. The business objective (s) clearly defines what questions you want answered, or what business or marketing decision you want to make based on the outcome of the research.

An example of the sorts of business decisions you may need to make based on market research outcomes are:

• How can we improve the satisfaction of our customers?
• Is there any demand for my product idea?
• Is my advertising working?
• What do we need to do to make the ad more appealing, or noticeable to our target market?

Once you have defined your business objectives you can refer back to it throughout the market research process to ensure you stay focused.

Next, find out what information already exists that may answer some or all of the questions. For example, in the case of a satisfaction study, have a chat to your sales staff to see if they have had any feedback from customers that suggest they are unhappy.

Step Two - Defining the Research Objectives

Once you have defined your business objectives you can clearly define the objectives of your research. For example if you want to understand how satisfied your customers are your research objectives may be to understand:

• What drives customer satisfaction?
• What do your customers feel are the most important service factors?
• How well are your performing on these factors?

Step 3 - Plan Your Approach

In planning your approach you need to think about what information you have and what is missing. Do you need to take a qualitative approach or a quantitative approach or both? Sometimes this will depend on the budget and expertise available. If for example you want to understand how satisfied your customers are with the service they have received, you may want to start with a qualitative study among some of your customers to understand factors drive satisfaction, then do a larger quantitative study to find out how well you perform on each of these factors.

Once you have decided on your approach you are ready to develop your quantitative questionnaire, or your qualitative discussion guide which I will show you how to do in future posts.

Step 4 - Define your target sample

When defining your sample you need to think about who your customers or potential customers are. In a satisfaction study you may want to talk to your customers and competitors customers. If you are just starting a new business or launching a new product, you need to think about who you are aiming your product or service at. Specifically, think about:

• How old are they?
• Where do they live?
• What channels do they buy through?

Once you have completed these four steps you are ready to collect your information or field your market research study.

I am a Market Research professional with over 12 years market research experience, in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Australia. My mission is to help small businesses better understand their customers, and their market by providing useful information to help small businesses design and conduct their own robust market research studies.

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