As a new parent, I can’t imagine how the expression “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water” ever really came into existence. But as with parenting, this idea is essential in business and critical right now for market research as an industry.
It is easy (and justifiable) to get excited about many of the new tools and techniques that continue to enter the market research world. Many of these technology driven, shiny new toys have huge potential to change the way we work and conduct measurement. But used improperly, these new tools and techniques can do more damage than good and lead to inaccurate data and poor business decisions.
So, how do you make sure this doesn’t happen? Remind yourself and your team of the basic fundamentals.Three places to start:
1) Defining research objectives: A well thought out research project is often the difference between one deemed a success and a failure. By answering a few questions up front, you’ll ensure success regardless of what tools you use. Who is using the findings? How will they be used to make decisions? Are there trade-offs we need to make on our methodology? How will we communicate the findings once we have them? Do we need a mix of qualitative and quantitative?
2) Choosing the right methodology: It has always been important to think about your audience of customers and potential customers and the topic of the project when designing a research project, but with the continued growth of sampling and data collection options, it is now more important than ever to design a project for the people you are engaging. Are they members of online panels? Do they need interactive questions? Will they understand the types of questions we are asking? Can the directly evaluate a product/concept or should you use a trade-off design? It is no longer as simple as picking phone v. mail. v. online.
3) Designing questionnaires: While many non-researchers may not believe it, there is a reason that questions are worded in specific ways and placed in a certain order within a questionnaire. Make sure those using DIY tools or driving research initiatives understand the impact of questionnaire design on the data and the respondent experience, and offer guidance to ensure mistakes are not made.
To sum up, there are lots of great new ways to conduct market research as we enter 2011, but you can’t forget to apply the same diligence as you did with traditional techniques.
Posted by Josh Mendelsohn. Josh is our VP of Marketing and loves live music, tv, great food, market research, New Orleans, marketing, his family, Boston and sports. You can follow him on Twitter @mendelj2.