Sometimes it’s easy to just go along to get along. Much of the time, as market researchers, we are asked by our internal clients (typically the marketing or brand team) to conduct a project to ask questions of customers with regard to their marketing needs and activities. This is such a routine pattern that we frequently fall victim to moving ahead with the research without first clarifying some information that will be key to delivering valuable results.

Next time your internal customers come to you asking for market research to answer questions they may have regarding their product or their brand, three simple questions will help them to clarify their own business needs, which will allow you as the market researcher to ensure the work you do is actually contributing to positive business outcomes.

  1. What specific business decision are you making that whatever you learn from this research will help to inform?
  2. Too often our marketing colleagues have a laundry list of questions they would like to ask, but they have not walked their curiosity through to the decisions they will actually have to make based on what they learn. We have all been in the position of believing there is clarity around what we need to know, but we have not thought through what decisions can be made based on what we learn.

  3. What other information will be combined with this research to facilitate the decision?
  4. Sometimes we may fall prey to thinking that a particular research project will provide all the answers required for a particular decision. The reality is that research is generally just one piece of the puzzle in driving business decisions. Understanding what other information will influence the decision may help more clearly scope the research. How often do we complete research only to come to understand that the decision was made based on other factors, and that the research was not really critical to the decision at all?

  5. What specific actions will be influenced by the outcomes of this research?
  6. This is the more practical question that brings both question 1 and 2 into full focus. If the outcomes from the research are not going to influence specific actions to be taken in support of the business decision for which the research is intended to inform, there may be an opportunity to more critically assess how the research could be designed to deliver more actionable outcomes.

By asking the right questions of your colleagues, then collaborating with them to align the research objectives with the business needs, you can demonstrate real ROI to your management team, and position yourselves as strategic thinkers among your peers.

Image courtesy of GotCredit on Flickr Creative Commons

Shirley Stoltenberg

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