We’ve learned that the best results from market research come when a research team maximizes the value it receives for every research dollar spent. For most firms, this means spending less money on the research, and spending more time analyzing and implementing on results. To me, this feels very similar to an entrepreneurial approach. As a startup, you may not have a big research budget, but you still need to test your ideas. So what do you do? You put together a series of smaller experiments that can accomplish results that are actionable, but much less costly. Instead of focusing on confidence intervals and precision in data, startups must focus on their hypothesis — was it right or wrong? This level of focus is usually not considered necessary for a company with larger budgets; they can simply throw a few ideas at the wall and see what sticks. By putting a little more forethought into the questions being tested, they could save a great deal on research while using the results to guide their strategic decisions. How can researchers do this effectively?

1. Find the niche. Narrowly define the questions the research is designed to answer. A laser-like focus is crucial for entrepreneurial research.

2. Keep it lean. Don’t do more interviews than you need. In a lot of cases, the last few interviews you perform are throwaways — the key insights have already been gleaned, and the message from respondents is consistent. Cutting out unnecessary interviews helps turnaround time and keeps costs low.

3. Unnecessary innovation is usually worse than the status quo. If the research requires an unconventional method, do what needs to be done. If that is not the case (and it rarely is) you’re much better off leaving well enough alone. Innovating methodologically on a small budget is a great way to end up with findings that are not actionable. In organizations with smaller (and often shrinking) budgets, embrace the entrepreneurial spirit in your research. You’ll find that your results are often just as actionable without the hefty price tag of traditional research.

Ellen Hart is a Senior Associate Consultant at Vivisum Partners. She specializes in in-depth qualitative research in healthcare and nonprofit fields.

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