If you asked me what I like best about the market research field or a market research project like a focus group, survey or in-depth interview (IDI) project, I'd always answer with the report. At the end of the day, marketing research is more of a service-based business than a product-based. But the report is a culmination of all of the hard-work and data you battled to collect. It's what puts a nice bow on your project and helps you collect your thoughts into a single document to drive strategy and next steps for your client. A strong market research report can leave a lasting impression on the entire process.
Here are 7 tips to consider when working on your next market research report:
Layout your outline
Begin by structuring your PowerPoint document into sections with headers on each page (title page, table of contents, background and methodology, executive summary, infographic, and appendix. Creating a skeleton will help you organize the flow of your report and it will help you come the time when you are ready to start filling in each section with your findings and data.
Draft a background and methodology
This is a section you can scratch off fairly quickly. In the report this sets the table by laying out objectives, key dates of fieldwork, screening criteria, sample information, methodologies of choice, number of completes, and reward payouts. When you are building your template, you can write this page of the report before fieldwork is completed to get a head start.
Create an Appendix
I am a big fan of the appendix. However, your market research report should mainly focus on the executive summary, action items, and recommendations in brief. Put all of your detail (case summaries or transcripts for qualitative, or question by question results for quantitative) in the appendix section. You're saying "if you want more details it's here but the main focus of the report is the insight in the first 10 pages."
Tabulate and organize your data into charts/graphs
This would be your charts, graphs, or your tallies of your questions asked in your qualitative work. Tallying all of the data helps you understand the key metrics you'll want to highlight in your executive summary and lays the groundwork of the themes. It also adds some credibility to some of your more qualitative and anecdotal findings.
Proof for edits and proof for content
Once fieldwork is complete you'll want to put together the meat and potatoes of the report (this in most cases is appendix-worthy data and comments.) Your charts, graphs, or case summaries should be placed at the tail-end of the report but you're going to want to read through all of this detail because it will help you build your takeaways. As you go through this detail, proof it for edits, typos and then for content.
Jot themes as you read through and build your data
As you go through and do your work in your appendix, keep a separate handwritten note sheet or document to simply jot down key takeaways, commonalities or themes your noticing in the data and feedback. This draft sketch is the driver to help you craft your 6 to 8 themes for the executive summary. You'll be thankful you've recorded these come that time.
Build a persona to highlight key takeaways
A simple reporting technique is building a single customer persona which address the most common responses. This adds some life and brings your data to life. It is also a great way to highlight a number of data takeaways into one story. If 68% of your customers are female, 95% are highly satisfied with your product, and only 20% of your customers have purchased from a competitor tell the story about "Jane" who is a typical female customer of your store, is highly satisfied and highly loyal to your brand who occasionally purchased from Competitor XYZ. Doing this before you write you in-depth themes and takeaways will help you choose only the parts of the story that were worth remembering.
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