Market Research W5+H
(Avoiding the Road to Nowhere)
The better the planning, the better the results. This adage applies especially well to market research.
Despite its proven importance to business success, market research is still looked upon with disdain by many business executives. I suspect that one reason for this is some bad experience in the past, where a market research project failed to find the source of a business problem (like lost sales) – likely because the wrong methodology was used. It is possible that a market project research project was misused, for example, for internal political purposes where one executive sought to humiliate or remove a rival.
Whatever the case may be, it is important to state the objectives and scope of the market research project before the project is started, to ensure that all the key decision-makers are in agreement regarding the reasons behind the project, its objectives, its scope and methodology, and acceptance of the results.
The WHY of the project is the most important element in planning a market research project. A project without a business-related aim, objective or purpose is a waste of time and money and will be used to block any future projects that may serve a vital business objective.
The WHY may be loss of sales or market share, testing a new product or concept, understanding the interaction between sales reps and customers, etc.
The HOW of a project covers how the project will be conducted and how the results of the project will be used.
The project may be conducted using an online survey, focus groups or mystery shopping. Some method, or combination of methods, will be used that can best access the information sought.
How the results will be used deals with how the company will deal with the results of the market research, especially if the results reveal a negative or unexpected result. Is the company prepared, for example, to make changes to correct a problem or to develop a product to respond to a business opportunity?
If the results will be used to settle internal political scores, it would be better not to launch the project.
The WHO of the project defines who the stakeholders are and who will be responsible for carrying out the project. This part is really a question of communications, making sure that everyone involved in the project understands their role and responsibility. Whether the project is carried out using a vendor or is conducted internally, everyone should be “kept in the loop” regarding the development and launching of the project, and to be made aware of any issues that may be encountered during its execution. If nothing else, this ensures that no one “disowns” the project and its findings.
The WHEN of the project determines when the project will be launched, when the fieldwork will be completed, when the analysis will be completed, and the results presented to management.
The WHERE of the project deals with the geographical scope of the scope of the project. It can also deal with where the fieldwork will take place, especially when dealing with mystery shopping and store intercepts.
The WHAT of the project is related to the WHY and HOW, in that it deals with the objectives of the market research project and actions taken once the findings have been delivered and understood. What will the decision-makers do with the results, especially if recommendations are made to modify a product to respond to competitor actions, or develop a new product to respond to a new market?
Conclusion: Avoiding the Road to Nowhere
This brief article does not do justice to all the work and complexities in developing and executing a market research project. Its purpose has been to provide some ideas on how to ensure a successful market research project, uphold the integrity and reputation of market research in general, and to avoid the proverbial “road to nowhere”.
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