President and Founder
Undertaking a research project always involves a significant expenditure of resources. In order to make it worth your time, attention and investment, the resulting insights must transcend the merely “interesting” or “noteworthy” and instead provide useful intelligence that moves the needle on your business objectives.
How can you be sure your questions will be answered? Will you be able to translate the study results into practical business strategies? What if participant responses aren’t what you were expecting?
These are natural concerns as you kick off any project. The stakes are high and one wrong move wastes precious time. However, applying a few simple strategies increases your chances of receiving practical insights that you can actually use.
Articulate exactly what you need to learn and how it relates to your business decision
Hazy research objectives yield hazy results. Therefore, one of the most important steps of the process starts in the project’s discovery phase: your goal is to achieve full clarity about what you are trying to learn — and why. Because your objectives literally inform the content of your survey, overlooking an objective or including questions that do not align with your true project goals squanders your resources without providing valuable insight.
Your market research company can help you distill the concerns and needs from all stakeholders, noting where they diverge and where they overlap. This understanding will help you articulate exactly what you are trying to achieve with your study and how the results will be used. Moving forward with a concrete sense of exactly what you are trying to discover and how it fits into the context of your business will deliver insights that demonstrate true ROI.
Avoid becoming hyper-focused on the survey
Developing a quality survey is your market research partner’s job. They are already applying their experience and expertise to sharpen your survey in order to ensure that each and every question serves a definite purpose.
Arbitrary changes don’t add to the quality of data you’ll receive and may even unnecessarily drive up your research firm’s billable hours. Instead of nitpicking the wording within the survey, your time is better used by asking your research partner to demonstrate how each question works to answer your business objectives.
If you have feedback, explain to your research firm exactly why the survey questions aren’t hitting the mark. Sharing overall context and your intimate knowledge of your end client will help your research partner make appropriate adjustments to maximize your survey results.
Insist on collaboration
Your market research partner should never “go away” then pop back up with answers at the conclusion of your study. Instead, look for partners who keep you appraised of progress – and problems – every step of the way. Regular check-ins keep you informed of the study’s success and should reveal early if expectations require adjustment.
In addition to regular updates as recruiting and survey administration get underway, request a check-in once the full data set comes back. Though they haven’t fully synthesized the information, your research partner should have an initial idea of the story the data is trying to communicate.
Does anything surprise you? Is there something you would like to dig a little deeper on? Share these thoughts with your research partner, who will keep your requests in mind as they develop the final presentation.
Turn to the data to answer questions as they arise
Maintaining open, two-way communication with your research partner during the reporting period enables you to ask questions that sharpen the picture. Remember that the end goal of a quality research partner should be to not just report findings but to deliver actionable recommendations.
For example, if your study reveals that your upcoming product launch is going to fall flat, it may be possible to use the available data to discover what your customers do like about your product, or what needs to change in order to attract interest.
Identifying hiccups early enables your market research company to extract usable insights that maximize your research investment in relation to your business objectives.
Stay open-minded in the face of “bad news”
The purpose of every research survey is to provide you with insights that help you make smarter business decisions. That means at some point you may encounter surprising or disappointing results.
Don’t worry. The good news is that you now have concrete evidence to guide you forward.
Creative reshaping of survey results to soften the blow to stakeholders doesn’t help your circumstance; it simply postpones the inevitable. Therefore, resist the temptation to ask your research partner to ignore or omit unfavorable results.
Instead, use these findings as fuel to move forward. Your research partner can identify the nuggets of positivity from your study and can help you draft a report to stakeholders that reveals the true nature of problems, along with specific strategies to mitigate each.
The relationship with your market research company works most effectively when you view it as a true partnership, not a one-off vendor engagement. By clearly articulating the context of your survey and discussing surprises or setbacks as they arise, you take full advantage of your research partner’s expertise to deliver specific action items that are genuinely valuable to your organization.