What Are the Seven Steps to Better Market Research?


Dear Reader,

Happy New Year! And welcome to ‘better insight’ – the newsletter dedicated to maximising the value you gain from your market research.

At Research Insight, we’re passionate about good research. But we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Which is why each issue of this newsletter includes an original cartoon to illustrate our theme.

This month we have some ideas on how to achieve the most action and value from your investment in market research.

The tips outlined in the short article below are practical and powerful. They should also help you avoid the stress felt by the overworked Research Manager in our cartoon!

But if you already feel like that, don’t despair! Send me an email and we’ll be delighted to help.

Happy reading…and a prosperous 2009!

Martin Holliss

Martin Holliss

What Are the Seven Steps to Better Market Research?

Here is our step-by-step guide to squeezing the maximum value from your investment in market research.

  1. Plan: First of all, plan ahead. Tempting as it is to think, “I need results and fast”, there are benefits in allowing plenty of time between initial discussions about your research project and the deadline for your report. By not rushing things at the outset, you reduce the risk of major gaps in the design of your survey. As a result, the data that’s collected – and the analysis and recommendations – will almost certainly be more robust.
  2. Review: Next, take a look at what you’ve already got. It’s amazing how many companies have research reports gathering dust on shelves, or stuffed in filing cabinets. Within these reports are all kinds of nuggets of information. At best, you may discover that you already have the answers to your current questions/issues and don’t need to commission new research. At worst you’ll be reminded of what you already know, and so what you don’t need to include in your new survey. There is no point whatsoever in spending money researching a question/issue if you already know the answer!
  3. Objectives: Importantly, you should draft two sets of objectives: business objectives (how the research links into your overall business strategy) and research objectives (what questions/issues you want the research project to explore or discover). Ideally each set of objectives should contain no more than four concisely-written bullet points. These objectives should underpin the design of the survey and questionnaire, and be used to measure success of the survey report.
  4. Brief: Now prepare a detailed written brief. It will keep you – and your agency – focused on what you need to achieve. For more information on what to include in a brief take a look at last month’s better insight.
  5. Robust: Even if tempted, don’t cut corners – make sure your research methodology is robust. If your survey sample is too small, or you compromise on survey design, you risk ending up with misleading results that could damage your business. Sometimes the best advice is not to commission research after all, especially if your budget is too small or time is too short. Only commission research if valid, robust, results can be guaranteed.
  6. Recommendations: Get the best from your researchers and demand action-focused recommendations. Good market researchers are used to working with robust data to identify opportunities, and decisions that need to be taken. Take full advantage of their probing, independent insight!
  7. Action: Since a really valuable survey will help you make even better decisions, the seventh and final step to better market research is take action! At Research Insight we’ll leave you in no doubt: if you don’t plan to take action, don’t commission a survey – save your money instead!

Case History

A public sector client appointed us to run an online youth survey. From the outset, it was clear that they wished to set realistic (not rushed) timelines to maximise quality and data integrity.

While a detailed brief had already been drafted, the first thing we did was to help tighten up the business and research objectives. Once these had been agreed we reviewed existing knowledge, and drafted a questionnaire containing carefully worded questions, each of which fed into the defined research objectives.

Careful project management during fieldwork resulted in robust data from more than 6500 youths and 35 schools/colleges. The data was then weighted (using a RIM weighting technique), to ensure it was fully representative of young people.

The survey had to feed into the client’s strategic plan, which meant we had to explore and report key findings based on a wide range of specific topics and themes. During analysis, we used simple crosstabulations linked to powerful statistical significance tests. We also used complex regression analysis to uncover hidden patterns in the data.

The end result? A series of initiatives was developed and launched. What’s more, the client recently contacted us to discuss repeating the survey. Clearly a happy client!


To receive a PDF version of our “Seven Steps to Better Market Research”, click here  or visit www.research-insight.com/download.htm. You can also obtain a summary of different market research techniques (and when each should be used), and a useful “statistical significance calculator” (to establish the accuracy of your survey data for different sample sizes). Plus you’ll receive a few more light-hearted cartoons! All these documents come free-of-charge, with our compliments.

And if you’d like to find out more about effective market research, B2B Marketing Online has lots of useful articles.

What else do we do?

At Research Insight  we offer a full range of desk/secondary, qualitative and quantitative research (by telephone, in-person and online), conducted in any country and language you need. We place particular effort on analysis and delivering action-focused results.

To achieve this, we’ve developed a powerful process to deliver the maximum value possible from your research investment. We call this process Findings, Meanings, Action. It works like this:

  • we highlight the key findings from your survey
  • we then explore the meaning of these findings, in the context of everything we know about your company, your competitors, your customers and your marketplace;
  • finally, we highlight the action you need to take, by making a series of robust, fact-based, recommendations.

By the way, all our work comes with a 100% unconditional ‘no quibble’ guarantee.

If you’d like to find out more, or think we can help you or one of your colleagues, drop us an email .