What’s wrong with what we do now?
Typical market research projects follow a predictable process – the client tells the consultant what they want to learn (most often via a written brief), and the consultant designs a survey to share with the client for review. Through a series of meetings and survey iterations with the research client, the consultant develops a final survey, then fields it, collects the data, analyses it and presents the results (or, more often emails the results) in a report. Job done.
But wait a minute. We think this process is flawed, indeed, we think it often results in poor research. In our view, it is vital to have a unique, collaborative, client-centric approach to market research which will enable better, actionable results with higher ROI for clients.
If you want to get the most out of the market research consultants you hire, you should follow the process that we share in this article. Just six steps that market research clients should take in order to get the best results.
When a client hires us, the first thing we do is have a kickoff call to make sure that we really understand the client’s problems, what they have tried in the past, what hasn’t worked, and what has. We want to learn as much as possible about the company, so we can address their greatest concerns. We call it “being smart” about a company, its customers and competitors. In this kick-off call, it is important that we also learn hard metrics like defection levels, market share, penetration, average tenure rates, etc. After we gather all of this information, we ask what actions they plan to take based on the data we provide for them. This is important, so the client has a clear understanding of their ideal outcome, and so do we.
After the kick off call, our team constructs a straw man study based on the metrics the client shared with us. The straw man study is a great way to establish a starting point with the client. Typically, the straw man is a conjoint study that encompasses levels, attributes, demographics, and attitudinal programming. We have found that creating a foundational study is significantly more useful than entering the next meeting with a blank sheet of paper. The straw man gives the client something to react to. During step three, we want them to scrutinize the proposed study, keeping what they like, getting rid of what they don’t, and adding what they need.
Our third step in the process is a survey design workshop with the client. We encourage them to bring anyone into the meeting that may be administering the survey, or people who will be implementing the results often called the “end users”. Typically, a person from finance will join as well. This portion of the process is unique, but critical for positive market research outcomes. Since the client knows their issues from the inside, we need their input into what will work, and what will not. Collaboration between the client and market researchers is imperative during this step for a successful and fulfilling study.
The main goal of this workshop is to have 95% of the survey finished. We want to test something that is as broad as possible, but still attainable.
Now that the survey is finalized, we work with the client, or somebody in finance to make gross profit estimates. During this step, we put all the features we are testing into the conjoint study. This leads into optimization, which allows us to get to gross estimates and gross profits for the client changes we may suggest.
During this step, the survey is programmed; we gather and analyze the data, and create the choice modeling. Ironically, with most research programs this is where most of the time and effort is spent with many of the previous steps skipped. But we cannot create the choice modeling our clients need without having gone through the process to this point.
At the end of the project, we share the process and findings with the whole group that participated in the survey design workshop. At this point, the client has been part of the whole process, so we are not presenting new research to a new audience. They are already invested in the process and are excited to see the results. Here, we share findings, make suggestions and the client builds plans.
Satisfaction through a better process
Each one of these steps contributes to overall market research satisfaction and success. It is too often that clients are left with stacks of data without any actionable steps to take. Those piles of data eventually collect dust, and little (if any) organizational change is implemented. So this is a core issue for the market research industry but also for clients. If you don’t want to see your research dollars wasted, you need a better process.