Back to the Basics: 5 Fundamental Research Tips

The theologian J.I. Packer once said that “To be effective, all tools must be used to their best advantage.”

Market research is such a tool—if used to the best of its ability, it’s enormously helpful. When leveraged poorly, however, market research can do more harm than good—like pruning flowers with the wrong end of your shears. So, here are a few of my top tips for maximizing your market research:

1. Keep an Open Mind

One of the most fundamental ways to misuse market research is to embark on a study with a closed mind. When the results of a study have little or no capacity to affect your foregone conclusions, the research is obviously irrelevant to your business issue and, thus, a waste of resources. Often, the most useful results of research are the surprises and discoveries that fall outside of the realm of the expected. Approach a research project ready to learn from results, and you probably will.

2. No Idea Is Precious

As an English major in my undergrad years, I was encouraged by many a professor to “kill my darlings”—that is, to go back and edit my favorite ideas, those attachments to which could sometimes blind me to their actual value. The same idea often applies to getting the most out of your market research. Particularly in studies such as quantitative agile screens, your favored concept or packaging idea will sometimes perform poorly with consumers. It is imperative that you detach from your darlings.
The most productive path in this instance is to evaluate the data independently of your prior attachments, and, if you’re curious as to why, exactly, some concept or ad didn’t fare well with customers, to probe further with a qualitative exploration of consumer impressions.

3. Lay the Foundation

“When you ask bad questions, you get bad answers,” is a market research cliché for a reason; it is as fundamental to success in research as “keep your eye on the ball” is in baseball. Precision is key to getting the data you need to address a given business problem. If your goals for a study are unclear to you, then it’s likely that results will fail to clarify the issue. In addition, if you are attempting to get too much out of your objectives within a single study, you might also be setting yourself up for failure — as the findings may not be focused enough to give clear direction.

Essentially, good research is the result of thoughtful, diligent, and decisive preparation. During the planning process, make sure that the questions you are asking will capture the information you need. Otherwise, the results of a study may fail to guide you to helpful conclusions. This is where leveraging a research expert to help write the guide and stay laser focused on your research goals could be of significant benefit.

4. Have a Roadmap for Results

A strategy for how research results will be used is immensely helpful for planning the research itself. As mentioned above, a lack of purpose can derail even the most well-intentioned research projects.

A stated goal for the purpose of the research ensures that project results will not gather dust, but will have an immediate application to a pressing business issue.

Intentionally creating a roadmap for how research data will be used improves each step of the process. From drafting discussion guides to determining an audience to reporting results, a clear application for data will improve the quality of work and target it to your company’s distinctive needs.

5. Plan for the Unexpected

Sometimes in research results don’t always come back the way we expect. For example, maybe the concepts you thought would kill it in a quantitative screen didn’t perform well. Or maybe you’re left with more questions after your in-depth exploratory research.

Having a tool in your researchers toolkit that can give you a quick read as to why your concepts did (or didn’t) perform well, or being able to dig in to understand more about the responses from your exploratory work, enables you to get the answers you need without falling behind on your timeline.

At GutCheck, my colleagues and I on the Online Research Strategist team are here specifically to help our clients get the most out of their research findings. We are all seasoned researchers with thousands of hours of online project experience. Our team is laser focused on keeping the process simple and straight-forward so our customers get the quality insights they need to move forward with confidence.

Recently Safeway was able to leverage some of these key learnings to create a fast and effective innovation process. If you want to hear how they did it, check out the recorded webinar here!

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