Having the right information available to support your decision making is one core requirement for a successful company and market research is a key part of that.
You can use desk research to find out about your market and general trends. You have information available from your staff, from customers’ feedback and from the processes you have in place. These are valuable, but there are occasions when only primary research, done to meet a specific requirement, can help… provided you do it correctly.
For example, you might use primary market research to help you find out about awareness of your company or your products and services; to understand your customers’ buying decision process; find out why they prefer you to the competition or vice versa; explore the price sensitivity of your market; get feedback on new products or changes you’re thinking of making to your existing offer.
Most people know that there are two main types of primary research:
- Qualitative research is done to give you a steer on a topic and what impacts people’s views or behaviours. It includes the elements, language, perspectives, imagery and so on that inform the area you want to find out more about. For an area in which you currently have limited understanding, qualitative research is often used to help shape what is included in quantitative research
- Quantitative research produces data which aims to tell you how many people think or do something. It is used to put values onto the elements you want to understand, to give you hard numbers which you can use to inform your decision making.
Undertaking and analysing qualitative research requires expertise and most companies would engage a specialist to do this for them. Whilst this is also an option for quantitative research, with lots of on-line survey tools available, companies have the option of undertaking and analysing their own surveys. This can be helpful and a cost-effective way to gather bespoke information.
Whether you are briefing an agency or setting up your own surveys, it’s vital to ensure that the market research is appropriate and fit for purpose.
Here are the things which you need to consider:
What do you want to do with the results?
Deciding at the outset what you want to do with the results will help you determine the who, what and how of your market research. This applies not only to the overall survey but also to the individual questions or topic areas within it.
If you don’t know what you would do with the results of a particular question then don’t include it.
Who should you to speak to?
You need to define the set of people you want to hear from. Things to think about here include: location – such as local, UK wide, global; any specific population characteristics – such as age, gender, ethnicity, income level, family make-up; specific behaviours – such as buying or consumption history, in relationship to you or your competitors.
If your market covers both business customers and individual consumers, then you will probably need to approach these separately as they could potentially have very different responses.
Remember, the more detailed you are in specifying who you want to speak to, the more challenging – and expensive – it can be to ensure that you get those people, and enough of them, in your sample.
How will you reach them?
Once you’ve decided who you want to include in your survey, you need to work out how you reach these individuals. If they already have a connection with your company then this is much easier than trying to engage with those who aren’t invested in you already.
If you need to understand those who don’t already connect with you, then explore whether you could link up with another company or organisation which services those types of people to see if they would work with you. Think about where else these people go, virtually or physically. Could you reach them there?
If they are a particularly challenging group to reach, then engaging an external agency to help you could be your best bet.
If you’re setting up the survey yourself, bear in mind the suitability of different channels for attracting participants – Twitter, for example, tends to attract a different demographic to Facebook, or email. Be careful not to skew your results from the way you select or reach participants.
Which method should you use to gather responses?
What you are trying to find out and who you need to speak to will often guide the options you have for getting responses and will help determine whether you can do it yourself or need help.
Qualitative research can be done face to face – in group discussions or via one-to-one in-depth interviews – or via telephone or Skype interviews. If you are trying to engage with busy business customers, for example, the best approach might be doing one-to-one telephone interviews at pre-arranged times.
If you’re undertaking a quantitative survey then there are two main options, self-completion in hard copy or on-line, or interviewer administered, which could be face to face or by telephone. Whilst employing interviewers is costly, and a reluctance to take part when directly approached can skew responses, if the survey is complex, if you want to ensure full responses or if want more precise control of who responds, this can be worth investing in.
For self-completion surveys, on-line responses put the data directly into the system for analysis, which is great, but you have less control of people not answering comprehensively or dropping out part way through.
It’s also worth noting that people may be more willing to give an honest response on your company if they are talking to someone independent.
How many people do you need to sample?
This depends on two main things: what you want to do with the result and how big a margin of error you are willing to work with. The larger the ‘population’ you wish to draw from, the larger the sample you need to produce valid results.
If you need to look at differences between subsets of respondents then you need a big enough sample of each subset to be confident that the results are valid.
How do you get them to take part?
Whilst people will sometimes give you time for nothing, generally people are more willing to give you time if there is something in it for them. Think about the group you want to speak to and what you can give them which might motivate them to take part.
Cash incentives or vouchers are often used to attract and reward qualitative research participants as you are asking for a chunk of their time. For quantitative research, with much larger numbers of respondents, you might offer something small for everyone taking part or just a few larger rewards which are allocated via a prize draw. Offering something such as a discount voucher or some free products can keep the costs down and also potentially expose your products to new customers.
You’re ready to roll
Once you’ve thought through this list, you’re ready to get started, whether that’s briefing an agency on what you want or undertaking your own market research.
If you are planning to do it yourself, please also read our guide for setting up and analysing quantitative research, which provides pointers on questionnaire design, testing and analysis.
If you would like any further help with getting your market research spot on, then please get in touch