Some time ago I suggested to a small business that they should do some research on their customers. The response was “Oh we did a survey before but we didn’t get anything out of it”. There is a reason their survey did not produce the results they were looking for and it can most likely be attributed to their overall approach to research.
Managers in small and large businesses often begin a research effort by coming up with some questions in the form of a survey. And of course, they don’t want too many questions because nobody likes long surveys. What usually results is a list of 3 to 5 Yes/No questions that are more than likely related to “nice to know” rather than “need to know” aspects of their business. With this sort of approach it’s no wonder they “didn’t get anything out of it”.
If you want to get more out of your market research efforts then coming up with a few questions should never be the first thing you do, Instead it should only occur after a problem has been defined that the research will help solve and clearly defined research objectives have been established.
It is critical that you define the problem as clearly as possible. Problem definition is probably the most important task in the entire research process. Failure to properly define the problem can result in wasted effort and results that don’t give you the information you need to make a decision. Managers must also be careful to avoid confusing symptoms with problems.
Establish Research Objectives
You should set the objectives with a focus on getting the information needed to solve the problem. Research objectives will serve as a filter for the types of questions that will need to be answered for problem solving
Developing a survey that will provide actionable data requires a lot more effort than simply coming up with a few questions. Our next post will discuss the Do’s and Don’ts of creating a survey.
One More Thing…Is Research Really Necessary?
Before you start putting questions on a page, it’s a good idea to determine if you really need to do marketing research. It is not unusual for business decision makers to have inadequate information. But quality research can be expensive. Businesses have tons of data on their customers that can be mined and yield insights that reduce the need for primary research. It is also less expensive to do.