May 2011

6 Great Ways To Scupper a Research Project

Dear Reader

It goes without saying that you want to give your research project the best possible chance of success. After all, quality research costs money.

Which makes it all the more surprising that so many businesses manage to wreck their research projects. Not on purpose, of course. But somehow that’s what happens.

So, based on our experience of where things can go wrong, here are our top tips for ensuring your project is a failure… followed by three practical suggestions for the right way to go about things, to ensure your project is the success you need it to be.

Happy reading!

Martin Holliss

t: +44 1235 812 456
m: +44 7931 376501

So what can you do to scupper your research project?

Don’t waste time on planning
How difficult can it be? It’s just a few questions after all. So don’t waste valuable time thinking about who will do what, or in which order things have to happen. And above all, don’t agree roles and responsibilities with your research agency. That way, you can enjoy discovering that while you and your agency have each designed different questionnaires, no one has recruited any respondents. And other fun things like that…

Design your project by committee
It’s so much better if everyone in your organisation can pitch in and have their say about what they want the project to achieve. After all, Dawn in Production, Pete in Sales, and Tiffany in PR all need different questions answered – and this is your chance to include them all. No matter that your research agency will be pulling their hair out trying to keep the project on track. And that you won’t get action-focused results. Dawn, Pete and Tiffany will be happy.

Cram in as many questions as you can
Once you’ve got a nice, long questionnaire (thanks to Dawn, Pete, Tiffany et al) you have a choice: be honest with respondents about how long the survey will take to complete (and lose them right at the start) OR fib about how long it will take (so they get thoroughly bored and give up halfway through). It’s up to you!

Use lots of jargon that your respondents won’t understand
After all, if you understand the terms you’re going to use, why shouldn’t they? So if, say, you specialize in computer technology, liberally sprinkling your questions with terms like bits, megabits, megabytes, gigabytes, megahertz, RAM and ROM will result in precise answers to your questions. Won’t it?

Squeeze the maximum out of your respondents
Firstly think of as many brand attributes as you can (20–30 is a good long list). Then ask respondents to score them against as many competitors as you can think of. Who cares if having to give hundreds of answers means they’ll tick anything just to finish the wretched interview? Or that your research agency has some smart techniques to get the information you need without sending your respondents crazy?

Don’t take action
The best thing about reading a research report is giving yourself a great big pat on the back every time someone says something nice. (And, of course, skipping over the bits where people say you could have done better.) It’s much too hard to think about what any of it actually means – and then do something about it. No fun at all. So best just to file this one away with all those other research reports…

On the other hand, if you want your project to succeed…

Define clear objectives
Many of the pitfalls outlined above can be avoided if you start out with clear objectives. We recommend a maximum of five tightly-focused bullet points. From them, your agency will define what type of research is needed, who you need to talk to and what questions you should ask them. You’ll also have a sensible interview length.

Plan then delegate
A simple way to get the most out of your research is to carefully plan who should do what, and then to delegate. As the client, you are like a conductor, and your agency, with all the research skills you need, is the equivalent of a full orchestra. Insist upon regular updates, but let your agency do what they are good at – designing and running action-focused research.

Appoint a project champion
With a senior executive in your organisation personally and visibly championing your research project, it will generate a lot more commitment, energy and even excitement. It is also hugely more likely that the key research findings will lead to action.

LinkedIn Question

This month we’ve posed the following question on LinkedIn:

What is your top tip for a successful research project?

Click on the question above to add your own suggestions. And if you’d like to ask us a question, we’ll do our best to answer it if we can.