3 Questions to Answer Before Doing Market Research

Conducting market research is a great way to ensure you’re basing decisions on reality, and not just assumptions. It doesn’t have to be a long, cumbersome or costly process. But, before you jump in or throw together a quick online survey, there are a few key questions you’ll likely need answered.

Before dedicating yourself to market research on any topic, answer these three questions to ensure you’re on the right track:

Why are you doing research?

Gathering more insights on your current or potential customers is always great, but what’s the genesis of your recent quest for more information? What current issues are you facing? What initiatives are you exploring that require additional research? Is there a point you’re trying to reach by conducting this research, and if so, have you clearly defined what you’ll use the findings for?

OK, so maybe this first “question” is actually a collection of them. But it’s important to lump them all together for the sake of getting the most complete and accurate picture. Have a clear goal in mind so you can take action once the research is concluded. Focus not just on what you’d like to learn, but also what you hope to accomplish once the new information starts coming in.

Researchers often like to ask “so what?” when it comes to developing research topics and questions — it helps to prevent us from asking questions that don’t actually yield anything of value. Think ahead and ask yourself, “If I learn X or Y, can we do something with that information?” If the answer is no, it might be a waste of time and resources to ask the question in the first place.

What do you already know?

Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how much wasted time is spent coming to unnecessary conclusions. Always start with any information you already have on the topic, or the consumers you want to know more about. This will help determine what type of research you need to conduct to fill in knowledge gaps, and whether secondary research can answer your questions or if you need to do primary research, and then does a qualitative or quantitative method make the most sense.

Quantitative research typically gathers more simplified data from a larger group of people so one can statistically project the likelihood it will apply to your entire target audience. A good rule of thumb is that conducting quantitative research like online surveys can be a great option if you want to measure things. Let’s say you have a strong hypothesis and you want to test its validity, or if your research questions are phrased along the lines of “how many, how often, how much, or how likely,” then this method might be best for you.

On the other hand, qualitative research typically includes gathering information from fewer participants, but instead allows you to more deeply explore the topics and questions you are researching.

If you don’t know what the potential answers to your questions could be and you want to explore questions like “how, why or in what context decisions are made,” qualitative research could be a better option. This type of research allows you to follow up and go deeper by discussing questions and answers that come up during the conversation that you might not have thought of to begin with.

Who can answer your questions?

Have you considered who you need to recruit to answer your questions and how to approach it? Are insights required from current customers, lapsed customers or consumers who have yet to shop with you? Will results come from a targeted area, across the country or internationally? Will respondents be tech-savvy? Are they busy? How many are there?

Again with the questions! We know, but they’re important! They’ll help determine what research methodology and delivery method will be best, as well as how much time and money it could take to gather insights from them.

It is always easier to engage respondents if you can meet them where they are and where they feel comfortable — whether that is online or offline, in one-on-one conversations, or having lively discussions with each other.

What’s next?

This all might seem like quite a mouthful, but answering these key questions before diving into a full-fledged study will help you be strategic in how you approach your market research. It will also ultimately give you more valuable results. And, in the end, that’s what’s most important.

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