Now more than ever, with many companies decentralizing marketing research, sharing information and insights is crucial to getting the best return on your marketing research investments. I have worked with numerous organizations that live by the value of their market insights, and there are commonalities in how they encourage a consumer focus throughout their companies. Transparency, strategic thinking and communication are your best tools in effectively integrating consumer insights across your organization. And a dash of creativity helps as well!
Here are ten tips to help you with optimizing market research:
Leverage existing research
1. Review past research. Make sure to review research about similar topics or on similar groups of consumers– which findings reinforce or clarify one another? What patterns are emerging? What trends do you see? Sometimes linking findings across studies can be as insightful as what’s learned within a single study.
2. Ask yourself if you are making the best use of secondary data. Check with trade associations, government agencies, universities, etc. Many questions can be answered – at least in part – with information that has been collected by someone else for another purpose. This is a great way to stretch your research budget. Google™ is great, but a librarian can be your best friend.
Optimize your marketing research budget
3. Right-size your samples. Samples that are bigger than necessary can add avoidable costs. And while you’re at it, right-source your samples. Shop around to find the panels or lists that work best for you. Even better, use in-house lists whenever possible.
4. Use Omnibus surveys (if appropriate) to answer small, non-strategic questions. Never heard of Omnibus surveys? Many researchers haven’t, but they are a great tool. Basically, an omnibus study is an open survey targeted to a specific population (general U.S. adults, Moms, Hispanics, etc.). They are run on a strict schedule (daily, monthly or weekly) to a specific, set sample size You pay a set price on a per question basis. (Think of it as a marketing research timeshare – you only buy what you use.) A complete data set with demographics and crosstabs are typically delivered the following week. The cost and time spent on an omnibus are a fraction of a full-scale survey.
Optimize your methodologies
5. Avoid project scope creep. Clearly define your project objectives, get alignment with your stakeholders and make sure you select research methodologies that will deliver on these specific objectives. (It’s easy for research projects to get off track, especially with colleagues throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the project “as long as we’re doing research.”)
6. Periodically, review your mix of qualitative and quantitative research projects. Do you have the right mix? Organizations sometimes get stuck on one side or the other, and it is important to keep both types of research in view. There is often value in conducting both qualitative and quantitative on a given project, but often the timeline becomes too long or the cost exceeds the available budget. However, now, many new cost-effective hybrid tools exist that provide the benefits of both approaches, while delivering real-time, same day results.
Leverage your research partners
7. Look for additional value adds from your research partners (strategic thinking, suggesting alternatives, challenging your thinking to get the best results.) If you really want a partner, treat them that way. Ask your research partner to bring you their ideas to improve the efficiency of your research. Make sure they are actionable and impactful. What new insights and recommendations can they give you? For example, Insights in Marketing has developed a distinct expertise in marketing to women using an innovative approach to better understand female consumers. Your research partners may be more valuable than you know.
Communicate insights effectively
8. Create a real or virtual “room” that contains all of the information you have on the consumer. Research results should be easily accessible. If it is a real, physical room, make it visually stimulating and inspiring. Change displays frequently to highlight new learning. Host as many meetings there as possible to keep marketing research top of mind. If it is a virtual room, make sure it is easily accessible and well-known throughout your organization.
9. Change things around. Present information from the consumer’s perspective, instead of from your organization’s perspective. So instead of “The consumer is 28 to 45 years old, female, with above average income”, tell a story: “Hi! I am your consumer. I am 32, married, and the Mom of two beautiful children. I am an accountant and my husband is an executive in a large company.”
10. Use visuals. Beyond charts and graphs, images and photos can really bring your insights to life for your colleagues. For one client, we actually created life-sized cardboard “people” that we placed around the office, each one representing a segment of consumers. It wasn’t long before they had names, backstories, and were being carried around to “attend” meetings!
These are just a few ideas. Think about your company, its culture and the audience you need to communicate with and you will probably identify many more ways to optimize marketing research within your organization. The end result will be greater consumer focus, enhanced perceptions of the Consumer Insight function, and more fun!
Chris Holt is a Senior Marketing Consultant at Insights in Marketing, a Chicago area marketing research consultancy. Chris has over 25 years’ experience in global qualitative research and shopper insights, including expertise in the retail, travel, food and beverage, pet care, packaged goods, health and beauty, insurance, entertainment, consumer electronics, financial services, and B-to-B industries.