Tips On Conducting Research

If you think about it, hardly a day goes by where we don’t each conduct some type of research. It might be very quick and simple, such as where to go for lunch; a little more involved, such as what type of running shoes to buy; or even something fairly in-depth, like zeroing in on the model of car you want to purchase. Whatever the case, almost all of us do research continuously on our own behalf…and (if you’re like me) you are always analyzing our tools and results. The same process can, and should, apply to the research we do for clients and their businesses. Here are some guidelines:

The Obvious…
1. Have a Goal
Before starting any type of market research, be sure to clearly define your goals and objectives. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, it’s going to make it difficult to find valuable information. (Sure you want a good lunch place, but is it for a client lunch? A date? An inexpensive lunch?) These goals will help define the path you’re going to take to find what you need.

2. Analyze Multiple Sources
If you were thinking about purchasing a new car would you go to that manufacturer’s website to conduct your research? Perhaps. But you certainly wouldn’t stop there. Other sites, car reviews, testimonials and or magazines would probably be on your “hit list,” too. The same holds true when conducting research for our clients. Don’t rely on just one source for information. This helps us collect measurable data points instead of anecdotal notes and opinions. You want to learn about key competitors, relative market share, product price points, etc. If all you have is opinionated statements, you haven’t gone far enough in your research.

Things to consider…
3. Keyword Search

We all know how to do a simple web search using Google and Yahoo. Take that a step farther by searching for “keywords” that customers (not you) would use to find your type of products or services. See how much interest there is in these keywords (including negative terms) and how many competitors you have in the market. Again the key here is to think like a customer, not a company insider. For example, search “jet ski” instead of the preferred industry term “personal watercraft” or “back pain” instead of “musculoskeletal disorders.”

4. Keep Market Research Unbiased
Be sure that from the beginning you’re completely honest with yourself regarding your results. If you start out only looking to confirm what you want to believe, you will immediately insert bias into your research. The point of your research is to find out specific answers to specific questions, and to harvest data that you can use reliably to predict the future success or failure of a product or service.

Preparing for action
5. Interpreting Your Data

Once you have your results be sure to do another reality check. At this point we may become tempted to throw out results that don’t conform to our beliefs going into the research, which would add a bias to the data. Your goal is to accurately interpret the results, regardless of the outcome. While we would all love for our research data to confirm what we feel is “right,” the entire point of performing the research is to let the target market tell us what they’re looking for, not to confirm what we feel or believe.

Research plays a crucial role in marketing strategy, product planning and business strategy in general. By following these simple rules of thumb, you’ll ensure the research you do yields valid, actionable results. And you’ll probably find a great lunch spot.