Market Research: How To Conduct It Effectively 

Think you know your market? Think again!
Market research conducted effectively bridges the gap between what you think you know, and what you will actually come to know through timely, effective timely research. It reduces risk and drives growth by providing you the knowledge your business needs to move forward.

This blog focuses on how to conduct Market Research effectively.  Here goes…

Keep Up with Your Audience

Learning how to conduct effective market research is critical to marketing. Why? Because having a deep understanding of your specific market, your buyers, and the behaviors and influences associated with the purchase decisions of your target audience are necessary. This then allows you to adapt your marketing strategy to align with the way today’s buyers research, consider, evaluate, and buy products and services.

My last blog covered the What, Why, Types and Applications for Market Research and more. As promised, this blog focus is on conducting effective market research.

Define Your Research Goal, Objective, and Purpose

The first thing you must do when considering investing your time, attention, and efforts into market research is to clearly define why it is worth your time and effort.  What is your specific goal for doing the research?  What is your defined objective from the research?  And what is the purpose of the research?

Once you have clearly identified the goal, objective, and purpose for pursuing market research, you will be able to determine if the time and effort is worth your investment.  In my years of doing research, I seldom find the actionable insights gained from research not worth the time and effort put into conducting it.

My last blog shared why market research is important, the applications for conducting market research, and the questions that market research will answer.  It may be useful to revisit this blog to help define your goal, objectives, and purpose for conducting market research.

With your goal, objectives and purpose defined, let’s move onto the next step on how to conduct effective market research.

Define Your Buyer

You cannot possibly understand the decision-making process or behaviors of your buyers, until you first understand who your buyers are. Among us marketing folks, we refer to this as your buyer personas or marketing personas. They are one in the same and serve as generalized and fictional representations of what you consider your ideal customers.

Buyer or marketing personas help you and/or your team to visualize your target audience, streamline your communications, and inform your marketing and communications strategy. Thus creating your buyer personas is one of the initial steps in the process. Your personas should include as much as possible in the following areas (as applicable):

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Job title(s)
  • Company Industry, Size, Niche
  • Size of Household
  • Ages of others in Household
  • Income
  • Major challenges

Each persona albeit generalized and fictional, serves as a guide for how to effectively reach and learn about the real members of your target audience. In doing this exercise, you may discover that your business serves more than one specific persona.  It is ok to have more than one persona, as long as they are treated differently.

With your personas in place, you are ready to move to the next step.

Identify the Right People to Engage 

Choosing who to engage for your market research initiatives starts by focusing on people who have the characteristics of one of your buyer personas. I generally recommend between 8 people- 12 people per persona type as the audience size for your research per persona if doing 1-1 or focus group research.  If your research requires more than one persona, then you will want to treat the other persona type as a separate research group.

Select a Diverse Mix of Participants

You want to gain research from a diverse mix of people who meet the characteristics of the persona type. This means you want to include people who have purchased your product or service. Those who have purchased a competitor’s product or service. And those who have decided not to make any purchase.

Using all the tools available to you from your CRM to identify recent customers or clients, those who considered you but chose a competitive, and those who have not purchased anything but meet the characteristics.  Besides your CRM, you can also use social media, your own network and those of your colleagues.

If conducting a focus group or 1-1 interviews and using an outside recruiter to gather participants, you must either provide them with a screener or work with them collaboratively on developing a screener.  A screener is a series of questions that must be answered by potential participants to see if they qualify to participate in your research study based on how they answer your specific screening questions.  The screener is often done over the phone or online.

Provide an Incentive or Honorarium

Time is valuable, so you will want to provide motivation to people to give up their time to participate in your research. One option is certainly an honorarium. However, you can also incentivize participants without money by giving them exclusive access to the research findings or to one of your products or services for a limited time. Other incentives can be a donation to a cause of their choice.

Develop the Questions to Ask

Often referred to as the discussion guide or interview guide, it will ensure you cover all the necessary questions to gather data and responses for the areas you wish to learn.  It will also ensure you cover all the questions within the time allocated for the study.  When developing a guide, please don’t consider it a verbatim script as it is intended to be used an outline. Identify the time allowed per question, while letting the discussion flow naturally and in a conversational manner. By doing so, it will allow you to dive deeper if something surfaces during the discussion that requires further digging into.

Types of Questions: When asking questions, please focus on questions where the participants cannot respond with a simple Yes or No answer.  Your questions should be developed to be open-ended so that the respondents can share their thoughts freely.

The Structure of the Discussion Guide

Depending on the length of time that your discussion will take place, your discussion guide will be developed to correlated with this time. Regardless of the duration, the flow and content of the discussion guide remains intact. It consists of the Introduction, the Main Body of Questions, and the Closing.

  • Introduction 

For the introductory part of your discussion, you’ll want to allow 5-10 mins (or up to 15 mins if your discussion session allows for this) at the beginning to gather background information and loosen up participants via an ice breaker question.

Background information questions pertain to each participant, and what you specifically need to know about that person’s background as it relates to their participation and input into the study.  Whereas an ice breaker question is generally more fun and interesting for the participant, e.g., favorite movie, favorite singer or actor, most interesting place they have visited, favorite food.

  • Research Questions 

The meat of the discussion will take the most time.  Here the questions are customized to align to the goals, objectives, purpose and needs that you are seeking to address via the research.  To do this, each question must be thoughtfully developed to provide you with the information you need. Equally important to keep in mind when developing the questions is what actions you will be able to take based on the information you receive. Always keep the end game in sight when developing your questions.

  • Closing 

When closing the discussion, please allow up to 10 minutes. Here you will wrap up the discussion, and allow for any remaining questions that your participants have. This will also be when you thank the participants for their time and responses, and secure their contact information to provide them with their incentive, honorarium, or other post-discussion information that you may have offered them for participation.  

Understand the Competition

Although the purpose of your research may vary, most research includes a competitive assessment either integral to the study questions or through secondary research.  When conducting research for my clients, I generally focus on their top competitors (approximately 5) so that we can really get a deep understanding of each competitor they most frequently encounter.

This secondary research can come from industry reports, the competitor’s website, publicly available sources, social media, search engines, and other online and offline available sources.

Analyze the Information

For some this can be the most challenging part of research.  Taking all the information and data collected via primary research and/or secondary research and surfacing the key findings and actionable insights from all this data and information. However, without careful analysis that surfaces the key findings and actionable insights, it is nothing more than a collection of raw data.

Summarize the Findings

When creating the summary report of findings from the research, here is a recommended outline format:

  • Background: What were the goals, objectives, and purpose for conducting the research study?  Why did you conduct it?
  • Participants: Who did you talk to during the primary research phase?  I generally either list the participants by persona type or title of each.
  • Executive Summary: Since this is a summary, try to keep it to a page or two is best. The content for this area focuses on what were the most important things learned from the research. And more importantly, what you plan to do about all this.
  • Body of Learning: Here you will further summarize the findings and takeaways that support what you have stated as key findings in the executive summary.  Quotes can be interjected here to add further validation to your findings.
  • Action Plan: The purpose of the research and the thorough analysis is to result in actionable insights. Having done the analysis and identified actionable insights, here you provide your list of recommendations and priorities, a recommended timeline, and the desired impact it will have on your business.

Determine Next Steps and Put Into Action

Your next steps and actions will be entirely up to you.  They should be based on the new knowledge and insights you have learned from researching your audience.

Now that you know how to conduct Market Research effectively, it is up to you to decide the what, where, when and how it can have the greatest impact on your business. Whether you decide to take on the research yourself, or engage a professional, the most important thing is doing it so that you stay engaged and have the pulse on the current market, your buyers’ needs and wants, and the competition.

Need some help?
Some businesses need a bit of extra help from an objective resource with specific research expertise.  If you find this to be true, we’re here for you.  Just let us know .

Marketing Matters based in Stamford, CT in Fairfield County serves diverse businesses and organizations in CT, NY, NJ and throughout the US. We help clients across the entire marketing spectrum from conducting research to gather insights and intelligence, developing strategy and plans, branding, traditional and digital marketing and communications, and aligning with and enabling sales to drive growth and achieve results in today’s evolving market.  For questions or to learn more, contact us by phone at 203.329.7773 or online.