What is market research?

Business people in a meeting with many notes and graphs spread across a table

What is market research?

Market research is the answer to growth.

Consider this…Companies can do 1 of 3 things; Grow, stagnate, or fail.

It all comes down to the decisions you make. In an ideal world, these decisions would be made purely based on quality market research. Shockingly, many of the decisions made in the real-world of business are not exactly informed decisions. 

This is a potentially fatal mistake. These few key decisions are the very thing that determines the ultimate outcome of your business.

We’re all about growth. The right market research findings can be the key to the hockey stick growth trajectory that very few organizations ever get to experience.

Why should I conduct market research?

The numbers don’t lie.

In 2018, over $47 billion was spent on market research. Why? When done correctly, market research leads to a higher-likelihood of growth.

So then, why don’t all businesses conduct market research?

It’s often because market research doesn’t have a directly attributable return-on-investment (ROI). As organizations grow, they frequently focus their spends on more immediate returns, such as advertising. Yet, research results also drive significant ROI: They just need to be measured, and properly put in place.

Other times, businesses skip out on market research because they’ve had plenty of success without it. However, market research only enhances existing success. If your business has managed to run on great intuition until now, imagine the level of growth that can be achieved by adding powerful consumer insights. And the more mature your business and market become, the more nuances of research before making big decisions become important.

Market research provokes business decisions that fuel growth. It’s that simple.

How is market research actually conducted?

The idea of conducting market research can sound a bit daunting. 

But the truth is, market research can range from a very simple project with a 2-day turnaround to an on-going process in which insights are generated on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis.

Ultimately, the way in which you execute research will largely depend on your needs. Here, we break down the process from beginning to end in 7 easy steps.

Step 1: Figure out what to research

So, what exactly should you research?

Well, it depends. 

Market research is a great way to explore what your market needs, test ideas before investing heavily, track success over time, and adjust your strategy to lift your sales.

Ask yourself, what would you like to know? Or more importantly, decide the questions you need answered to make more strategic business decisions in the future.

For instance, you might be considering:

  • Creating a new product or service
  • Entering a new market
  • Targeting a new type of buyer
  • Running a large out-of-home advertisement
  • Beefing up your customer service department
  • Or something else…

Having quality, detailed feedback directly from your consumers will go a long way in helping you make the best decision. 

From there, you will choose the type of market research to conduct. You should arrive at one of the following:

  • If you DO have specific questions to ask – and can isolate a few key areas, then you’ll be conducting specific research. That is the kind of research that is built to answer individualized questions, and bring about very clear answers that inform your business on how to best approach a specific initiative.
  • And, if you DON’T have specific questions – then you might not have any imminent business changes to base your research on. Instead you’ll do what’s called exploratory research. This type of research can provide you with more broad trends and insights on your market in which to then take general action.

Need help brainstorming? We’re here to help.

Step 2: Pick your type of market research 

There are various types of market research, and as innovative companies continue to push the limits, the lines between them continue to blur.

However, we can still define market research in the following ways:

Primary vs. Secondary Research

  • Primary – Actively going out to get new information is primary research. Basically, it means your research project will actively survey consumers for their insights and opinions. When you want actionable high-quality insights, primary research is the way to go.
  • Secondary – If you purchase an existing research report, that’s secondary research. You may find that a similar study was recently conducted, which answers many of the questions you want to ask. Similarly, you may be able to find the information within your organization or on the internet. The caution we have with secondary research, is to ensure the data isn’t inaccurate or out-dated.

MFour can provide you with both, but we mainly focus on primary research.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research

  • Quantitative – When you need easy-to-digest insights across a full population, you want quantitative research. With quantitative research, you’re gathering a highly structured data set from a large sample. You then analyze that data to find key patterns, trends, and outliers. The information collected can range from answers to survey questionnaires – to passive data gathered from users. Since everything is quantifiable, the insights are typically easier to analyze.
  • Qualitative – For deep insights on a specific topic, qualitative research is the way to go. With qualitative research, you’re working with a small sample size of subjects, often in an interview or a focus group. You can collect information that isn’t structured at all… Video footage, long open-ended questions, etc. 

While rich in information, the data you collect isn’t as easy to put into action, simply because it requires more studying than just statistical analysis.

Keep in mind, the lines can blur a bit in market research. For instance, our Diary Studies combine both quantitative and qualitative research. This is a great way to get structured data and in-depth insights, all in the same research project.

Full Service vs. Do-It-Yourself

  • Full Service – Full service market research is for data that is going to play an important role in business decisions. If you don’t have an internal research team, full service allows you to walk away with a much more complete picture of the data. At MFour, we can handle virtually everything from ideation to surveying, and analyzing to reporting.
  • Do-It-Yourself – A Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach may be more appropriate if you have a strict budget. It may also be helpful if you already have a research team in place. For more detailed projects, we would recommend a full service approach.

Learn more about your research options.

Step 3: Design your survey

To design a survey, you must start with a clear objective and isolate the members of the group you’re targeting.

Then, it’s time to get into the meat of the project: the actual survey. 

In creating a survey, you are drafting a series of questions. In most cases, you’ll want to start with a broad focus and narrow in on details. Questions can be multiple choice or open-ended in design.

Researchers often build short surveys to maintain attention; however, we have seen that well-designed surveys where participants are incentivized, can be both long and maintain attention. All participants in the Surveys on the Go® platform, our consumer panel, are directly paid for their insights.

Learn more about our consumer panel.

Keep in mind, incorrectly designed surveys may skew results. Certain wording can bias the results of a question, so we have to be careful with wording. A common error is a double-barreled question, in which participants are asked an opinion about two separate items in the same question. Be sure to take a balanced approach to your questioning. 

Step 4: Run your survey

Just before a full deployment (fielding) of your survey, there are two important upfront action items you’ll need to consider. 

Let’s start with feasibility.

Not surprisingly, feasibility is the measure of how feasible your survey is. To determine it, start with the sample size you need to effectively represent your target audience. Then confirm you can hit the number of full responses (completes) to meet your goals.

Next comes testing.

When running a survey, money is essentially spent as the participants respond. Therefore, it’s important to know that the survey is working correctly, and that you’re getting the desired outcome from a small test group. That is done before rolling the survey out to the full sample. This way, if something isn’t working properly, you can easily make adjustments before it goes out to your target group.

Now you can run the full survey.

Interestingly, while the survey may be the primary focus of your market research, it’s also the easiest part. All you have to do is wait for the results to accumulate.

Step 5: Analyze your data

Once your survey has finished, it’s time to analyze the results. 

Typically, this starts with a filtering process to exclude any responses that are incomplete, biased, unrealistic, or otherwise useless.

Once the data is cleaned, it is ready for a thorough analysis. The data may be imported into something as simple as a spreadsheet or as robust as SPSS software. Either way, the goal is the same: Look for statistical significance related to the objective of your survey and find things that your business can take action on.

Need help? We can do it for you.

Step 6: Report your findings

Once you’ve uncovered the main insights related to your objective, it’s time to present those findings. In many cases, these business units include the marketing team, the product team, the R&D team, and certain members of the C-Suite.

Step 7: Take action

The most important step is taking action.

At MFour, we focus on: Track > Observe > Survey > Adjust > Sell. Pay attention to the last two parts: Adjust and sell.

Market research is only valuable as the action we take. Pull from the insights you’ve gained and determine, with your stakeholders, what you’re going to do with them. In some cases, that goal may be to improve brand lift. In others, it’s to improve sales in one way or another. Find what matters to your business, and make the changes.

Start your market research project today!

Our market research team is here to brainstorm with you. 

If you’re facing a challenge, chances are, we’ve seen it before – and our qualified team of Senior Research Consultants can help. It is possible to get the answers to the questions you have, no matter how hard they may seem. 

We’re in your court and we have your back. We’ve worked with the largest brand-name companies and biggest market research organizations in the world. Our teams have years of experience. We look forward to hearing from you.

Start a new market research project.

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