No two research projects are the same (unless it’s by design – we see you, brand trackers and customer profiles!). But no matter the project, following these 5 practices can help you get the most out of every project you do.
Make a plan
Thinking strategically and planning your research up front is always worth the time. Start out at the highest level and ask: 1. What is the business objective or problem we are trying to solve (why do we need research)? Use this to identify gaps in the team’s knowledge of the market, consumer needs, etc. that will help achieve the business objective. The second question to ask is: 2. What do we need to learn to close those gaps? And finally you need to be clear on how exactly you plan to do with the insights you gain from the research: 3. How will we use the insights?. The answers to these questions will guide your audience selection (customers/users, market), the type of research (qualitative, quantitative or mixed method), and the approach in order to make sure the research is actionable once it’s complete.
Get input from key stakeholders
While research is all about getting outside of your walls for an objective view of the market and consumers/customers, inside of those walls you probably have a fair amount of expertise and hypotheses within your company. Take advantage of this and gather feedback from stakeholders across your business who have valuable input/ideas or who you hope would ultimately use the insights from your research. Not only will it make your research stronger, but it will also help you bring others along in the process so they’ll be more receptive to the insights once they’re available. These conversations may also provide a roadmap to any insights already in-house.
Check out what you already have
You’ve planned your research, gathered input from smart people, and you’re ready to go! But first, do the research equivalent of “shopping your closet”. If you are in a larger organization, this is particularly important – has someone else asked these questions recently, or done work that could get you close enough to what you need? If so, mine the research you already have before creating something new. Same goes for third party research on the market – would you be better off buying a third party research report you could get today than waiting to conduct research of your own? Consider the tradeoffs before moving forward. As part of this process, don’t forget to consider talking to the Data Analytics or Data Science team in your org – they have a wealth of data and information on your customer’s behavior using your product and that can be valuable if your research is customer-focused.
Focus your research on the objectives
Quantitative (online studies such as Surveys)
While it is tempting to ask a lot of questions of your customers or general consumers, be prudent in what types of questions you want to ask, especially in a quantitative survey. If you’re not absolutely certain you’re going to use a question or an answer to a question, cut it. If something doesn’t map back to the original goal of the research, probably cut it…or revisit your goal. Be ruthless and mindful of your target audience – no one likes a long survey. You’ll get better response and completion rates, and ensure everything you ask is useful if you take this approach. The way a question is asked is paramount to the success of your quantitative research so make sure you consult with someone who knows how to do it or read up on best practices.
Qualitative (Focus groups, In-depth interviews, etc):
A similar approach is recommended for qualitative studies.However the way these studies are run is quite different from a survey and generally the format is more of a conversation than in a survey. That means your plan is more of a roadmap than a set course, and you’ll likely uncover insights in a more organic way as the respondents share and expand on what’s relevant to them.
The research has been fielded, and the results are in…now what? Time to analyze the data you collected and draw some insights. Insights answer the “so what?” behind the responses in your research. With insights, you can build an action plan. That might look like a go/no-go on a product concept or feature, a new pricing and packaging structure, new customer success offerings, a change to your messaging strategy, or something else. Often, research will have implications across functional teams, so make sure you share your insights along with recommended actions, and work with stakeholders to implement next steps where you can.
Thinking about how you can do meaningful research for your organization and want some help? Let’s talk.