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The Essential Ingredients of a Successful Market Research Project

Posted by Youme Yai

Fri, Jan 11, 2019

baking ingredients-1.11.19

I’m a big fan of The Great British Baking Show—a tv series following the trials and tribulations of amateur bakers vying to be named the UK’s best baker. Each episode, the bakers tackle a different skill with increasing difficulty as the competition unfolds.

For those unfamiliar with the delightful show, the second portion of the competition, called the Technical Challenge, requires bakers to make an unfamiliar recipe with scant instructions. They must leverage their baking prowess and creativity to successfully make the recipe and impress the judges, Paul and Prue (or Mary, depending on which season you’re watching). Meanwhile, the competition is timed—which can be really tricky when baking time is unspecified.

As a custom market research project manager, I empathize with these contestants. Here are three ways the Technical Challenge is like managing a market research project:

  1. It's possible contestants have come across the Technical Challenge bake subject or recipe before. But even if they’re somewhat familiar, the recipes always have some unique element—making them feel new. Similarly, as a project manager you’ve probably done your fair share of customer journey, segmentation, or optimization. And while you may be an expert in each topic and approach, every project is 100% customized and will almost always include “new” elements. Maybe the sample is unique, or your client has a very specific business objective. Whatever it is, you’ll need to approach each project armed with your industry experience and thinking cap. Even with brand trackers which are usually repeated, each wave is unique and poses different circumstances. There are no exact prescribed instructions in market research—you must be innovative and open to new challenges.
  2. Ingredients are provided during the Technical Challenge, but not always with an explanation of how to properly integrate them into the bake. In a new research project, research objectives, desired business outcome, and potentially a sample list, may be the “ingredients” provided, but you as the project manager must successfully incorporate these components to uncover actionable insights that meet clients’ (or judges’) needs and expectations. While a crude “recipe” exists for research (e.g., Step 1: Questionnaire Development, Step 2: Fielding, Step 3: Analysis, Step 4: Reporting, Step 5: Delivery and consultation to client) it’s up to the research team to use their industry knowledge and experience to successfully account for all "ingredients."
  3. A fielding period, like the bake time in a Technical Challenge, may not be explicitly specified at the onset of a project. Therefore, you must use your best judgment and expertise to determine the length of fielding. Much like the bakers watching the oven, you must carefully monitor the metaphorical research oven—response rates, panel entries, etc.—until you’ve achieved desired results.

Unlike the British cake bakers and pastry makers, research project managers are backed by a dedicated team that is integral to the success of each project. From the Advanced Analytics team and Senior Consultants with robust industry expertise, successful custom market research projects are a team effort.

Of course, there are a few more differences (no worries about soggy bottoms or overbaked Genoese sponge for example).

At the end of the Great British Baking Show, the bake is eaten, contestants are judged, a winner is announced, and that’s that. But as market researchers, we don’t just deliver a final report and the show ends. A successful initiative means socializing the findings, conducting follow-up discussions, and more--being true, consultative strategic partners to our clients. 

Still, when our clients tell us how our insights and recommendations have made a concrete difference in their business—well that’s as good as a Paul Hollywood handshake.

Youme Yai is a Project Manager at CMB who is on a search for the perfect chocolate chip cookies recipe (suggestions welcome!)

Topics: project management, research design

How Triathlon Training Makes Me a Better Market Researcher

Posted by Shira Smith

Wed, Nov 28, 2018

triathlon

From training to crossing the finish line, competing in triathlons is one of my favorite hobbies. So far, I’ve completed four sprint races, each consisting of a short swim, a 10 to 15-mile bike ride, and a three-mile run. Not everyone would consider this "fun," but I love it.

When I'm not an training, I'm a market researcher who likes to draw parallels between my personal and professional life. Here are three ways training for a triathlon is like managing a research project:

Scheduling is key

Triathlons are long multievent races that require a ton of preparation and training. Months before race day, I map out a detailed training schedule that allots time for each event (e.g., swimming, biking, racing) to ensure I’m well-prepared.

Managing a research project also requires a rigorous plan. Before the onset of each project, I develop a meticulous schedule that outlines every step, due date, and expectation, from project kick off to final reporting and delivery. This keeps my team and me on track and hitting our goals.

I also share this schedule with my clients so our teams are always aligned on how the project is progressing. It sounds simple, but it's critical to be transparent and ensure everyone's on the same page.

Be flexible when plans change

Even the best laid plans can go awry. Despite my planned training schedule, sometimes things come up and I must adjust. If it's downpouring on a running day, for example, I could instead go for a swim. If the pool is unexpectedly closed, I'll hop on a bike. Whatever the obstacle, I always find an alternative that keeps me marching towards my goal.

Unforeseen events can happen in research, too. The important thing is to flex and stay nimble so surprises won’t derail the project. So long as I stay focused and proactive, my team and I can pivot, overcome challenges, and keep the project on track.

Data consistency is also key

I track data to measure and improve my race performance. With the help of a sports watch, I can analyze my pace, heart rate, distance, elevation, cadence, and more. Tracking these metrics helps me see my progression over time and can help identify variables that may be impacting my performance. For example, I often run in the morning, so external variables (e.g., traffic and temperatures) are more consistent. Since my running environment is consistent (as much as it can be) I can be more confident my tracked pace is real.

Consistently tracking data over time is critical in market research, too. In brand trackers, for example, we’ll measure the same dimensions so we can accurately compare results wave after wave. This helps ensure our clients can refine the most compelling positioning, optimize brand and market communication, and then track influence on behavior over time.

I'm glad I found a hobby that I love, and I’m even more excited that it connects in so many ways to my job as a market researcher. I’m looking forward to growing both as a triathlete and as a market researcher – and I know if I plan, stay flexible, and remain consistent, I’ll be successful at both!

Topics: data collection, research design, project management