The market research process follows a step-by-step best practice approach. This starts with a proposal from a market research provider followed by a kickoff meeting, research instrument design, testing and fieldwork, analysis and reporting, and a final debrief.
Although this differs from firm to firm and provider to provider, regardless of whether the market research is qualitative or quantitative, it typically follows this step-by-step process. The market research process involves a lot of work on both the front-end and the back-end. This centers around research design and analysis.
For a more detailed look at the market research process, see the outline below.
If you are wondering what is involved in the market research process, you're in the right place.
Step 1: Proposal
One of the first considerations you'll have for your business is whether or not to use an outside market research company to assist. The benefits of using an outside firm include expertise, time savings, honest and reliable feedback, and the ability to benchmark results against others. Conducting the market research in-house creates a perceived cost savings.
If you decide to work with a market research firm, here are the 7 components of a market research proposal you'll see. It's important to choose a market research firm that matches your goals, works well with your team, and delivers on expectations.
Here are some other tips to help you choose the right market research company.
Step 2: Kickoff
The kickoff is the first step in the market research process once the proposal is squared away. This can be handled internally with your team, on a conference call, or through an in-person meeting with your provider. Here you will tackle the core objectives of the market research. This includes what you want to learn from the research, what you want to do with the results, and other expectations and action items anticipated from the market research.
Step 3: Design
This is a core step in the market research process. This involves design of the survey, moderator's guide, interviewer guide, or other script. The design is the set up of your instrument. It's crucial that lots of time and attention be spent on this step. If this is not done well it will have trickle effects on every step after.
We recommend creating an outline first before building out a full draft to share with the team. The outline should reflect those core objectives from the proposal or kickoff. Once the structure and outline is agreed to, it is easier to take next steps with the full draft.
Step 4: Testing and Fieldwork
Once the survey instrument is designed, you'll want to test it. This could be a test interview with an employee, a mock focus group with colleagues, or sending a link out to a group of people to take the test survey. Once you ensure everything is working correctly and you have no further edits, you are ready for fieldwork.
Fieldwork is the data collection phase of the market research process. This is when all of the work is put in to acquire feedback and data points to analyze. This could mean conducting focus groups, conducting in-depth interviews (IDIs), conducting the UX, or running a survey.
Step 5: Analysis and Reporting
Once fieldwork is closed, the next step is data quality cleaning. Here you'll want to make sure all of data collected is of the highest quality. With qualitative there isn't as much of a concern than the quantitative data. With qualitative because you are so close to the participants, you know the feedback is honest and real. However, with surveys many cases are submitted that you might not have had a chance to review.
Here are some quick data quality checking tips.
You'll want to ensure the report tells a story. This means taking all of the data and turning it into digestible tidbits and themes. This works well for an executive summary. The market research firm would also provide benchmarks or context, recommendations, action items, an infographic, a customer persona, and an appendix with more detailed data. If you are completing this in-house, your report should reflect this as well.
Step 6: Debrief and Next Steps
After you create your report, you'll want to schedule a debrief with your core team and possibly your management team. Because no one is closer to the data than you or your market research firm, you'll want to supply the management team with your interpretations, assumptions, and takeaways.
These debriefs help an outsider take away the key points rather than forcing him or her to read the full report on their own. A market research firm's report may be upwards of 100+ pages. Therefore, not everyone will have the time to read through it. It is important to walk them through the highlights.
The final step is laying out action items and changes from the market research. It's one thing to do the research but another to then make changes with it. Particularly if it was a customer survey, those respondents are expecting your business to take action with the results. If it is any other type of study, changes and improvements are suggested as well.
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