Market Research Tutorial -
Part 10 of 17
This is Part 10 of 17 on writing
Market Research Plans.
Market Research Planning 101
Why Develop a Market Research Plan?
Where's the benefit?
The 3 Key Ingredients in Every Market Research Plan
Market Research For Small Business Owners
Remember Pink iMacs?
Jose Mourinho Taught Me About Market Research
Kickstart your Market Research
Using Market Research To Develop Brand
Mystery of the Seven Sided Market Research Plan
Stage 1 - Why Do You Need a Market Research
Stage 2 - Why Some Customers Are More
Important Than Others
Stage 3 - How To Find The Information You Need
Stage 4 – How To Collect Data
Stage 5 – How To Analyze Data
Stage 6 –
Generate Report Findings
Stage 7 –
Choose Best Strategies
The Mystery of the Seven Sided Market Research Plan
Market Research is like a heptagon.
Ok, that’s a bit pretentious. But, it is actually and here’s why.
The seven stages in the Market Research Plan look at:
- Why are you doing this?
- Who are you researching?
- What tools will you use to gather the information?
Where will you collect the data?
When and how will you analyze it?
How to Report your findings?
- What Decisions will follow from this?
Stage 1 - Why Do We Need Market Research?
The first side of my heptagon (ok, work with me here. I needed a useful
analogy with 7 in it and Heptagon fitted the bill. It was that or the Seven Gods
of Chaos. Heptagon won the toss...) is Why.
Why are you really doing this?
I know this seems obvious but… there are rational, easy to justify
explanations and there are ‘other things’.
For instance, knowing why your product is underselling is a good thing. Your
focus is clear. Armed with the results you can adjust the product’s price,
features or other attributes.
If customer service tells you that callers are frustrated with the IT booking
system, then the priority is to fix the booking system. The Market Research can
wait until afterwards.
Developing a Market Research
plan when you already know that there
is a problem is getting priorities mixed up. The priority is to fix the system.
Of course, if you need to know why the system is difficult to use, then ask
The point is… before you start your
Market Research Planning activities, be
very clear what you want to get from it.
The more you can clarify your goals, the closer you’ll get to that target.
When others ask what you’re trying to achieve, instead of feeling that you
have to justify this project in some way, you’ll have more confidence in your
In turn, this will be reflected in how they respond and respect your work.
Because Market Research is often seen as a ‘grey area’ or dismissed as a ‘nice
to have, but not essential right now’, make sure you are clear on why this needs
to be done.
Real confidence is contagious.
Work with your team and map out the reasons why this project will benefit
This is how you’ll convert the skeptics. Show them what they have to benefit.
Then reinforce the
benefits with examples.
The first step is to clarify why are you doing this?
What’s your objective? Define you over-arching goal in one sentence.
What do you hope to get out of it? Identify the one piece of
information the company does not currently possess.
What’s your objective? When you have this information, how can you use
it to drive other projects onwards?
What questions do you want answered? Identify all the questions that
need to be addressed and then prioritize the high priorities.
How level of detail do you want the research to go into? Is this the
first wave of a large marketing initiative or do you need to drill down into
How will you analyze the data? What factors will you use to examine
the data and extract meaning from the feedback. Otherwise, it’s just a mass of
What success criteria, if any, need to be established? For example, if
you determine that 80% of
customers would pay $49 for a new
product - and you interviewed a large sample - then this may be enough to launch
the product. No more data gathering may be required.
What will you do with the findings? Are you looking for a budget for
further development, to release a product, or for marketing activities? Does
this plan tie in with other marketing activities?
Are others depending on you before they can make a decision, such as
to release a new product?
Be clear with your
goals. Ensure that your team
understands your objectives and how the research will benefit drive other
For example, a mobile phone company wants to:
‘Offer customers free roaming calls in Europe help sell enough phones to
justify this cost and allow us to upsell other products to new customers?"
This means that the main questions to be answered will be:
Are customers interested in free roaming calls?
Is Europe a more attractive market to them than the US? (Let’s say you're
targeting business travelers.)
Can you upsell products to new customers?
How would you price the new products?
Is there opportunities for partner tie ins?
Notice that this is a very narrow focus. Essentially, we want to know if
business travelers (a small but lucrative segment of our customer base) would
buy new products from us if we offered them free roaming across Europe.
Once you are clear on your objective - and how it assists other business
units - you can develop your Market Research plan with more confidence.
That’s the first side of our Market Research heptagon. Let’s more it around
and see what’s next.
Stage 2 – Who are your Customers?
Yesterday, we introduced the idea of a heptagon into this series of
tutorials. It seemed a bit crazy the time but it does make sense.
Instead of seeing your Market Research project as one single activity with
definite Start and End points, step back and look at it more holistically.
Rather than seeing it as one long road you need to travel, look at the side
roads that feed into it.
This approach helps me when I get maxed out. I hit a wall in one area.
Rather than forcing myself to complete this task (now a soul-destroying chore,
tbh), I look at the plan for another side and find new energy there.
Did you ever notice that moving your attention from one to another suddenly
releases new energy? It’s a bit like that.
So, if you reach your limit with one area in your plan, leave it aside for a
day. Work on another area. Then come back to the first one when you’re
Which brings us back to...
Some Customers are More Important Than Others
If you’ve read Animal Farm, you’ll know what happened to Snowball.
‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.’
And it’s the same with
Think of it like this. One guy buys from you every time you put a new ebook
online. He snaps them up and posts great recommendations on the web. This guy is
Another buys once. You never hear from the again.
It’s a no-brainer, right?
This means that part of the market research plan is defining your real
Or, put it another way. We need to scratch the surface and learn more about
target customers than we think we do,
especially those of most value to us.
Don’t Make This Mistake
One common mistake in marketing is to assume that your customers don’t
Of course they do.
So, your research is to challenge what you think you know of your existing
And then look at ‘prospective’ customers.
You may have no ‘hard data' on them – so you need to get moving, pronto!
So, using the goals we defined in the Why section, we can examine our
target customers and see how we can ‘reach’ them.
Reach is one of those buzzwords used in
Market Research to cover how you will
contact customers, the media channels you will use, and the different ways to
A sample of 100 may give one set of results, whereas a larger number may give
you richer feedback. Cost is usually a factor here as the price per head adds
up, especially if you're doing the research for your own company.
For example, sharing the report findings and/or vouchers to your products may
work. Again, it depends on your target audience and what’s most valuable to
Another example... my email software lets me segment my list and target
emails at different user groups. This means I can match my market research to
the user group most likely to respond and avoid ‘spamming’ others.
You can also rent email lists but you need to do this with caution. Many of
these lists have been harvested without the user’s consent. As well as offending
the users, the ISP may block your email account if there are a high number of
complaints or bounces.
What incentives will you offer?
I use a variety of approaches to encourage folks to help with the market
research. Some of these are typical offerings such as free offers, vouchers,
instant downloads, reports, and other teasers.
This is the classic, ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back’.
And it works.
There are other ways.
For example, we identified a group of high earners for a banking project. We
told them – and this was true – that there were in the top 3% of all
earners on our books.
‘Would you like to test run the new Wealth Management System before it goes
There was no shorter of takers. Many high-earners wanted to use the system
because of their privileged status. They were capitalizing on their social
You can do the same thing with any line of professionals by appealing to
their status, vanity or greed. There’s different ways of persuading folks to
engage. Sometimes it’s more about how you ‘position’ the market research to
Consider dropping the phrase ‘market research’ and use something that
triggers different emotional buttons.
Stage 3 - How Are Find The Information You Need
Now that you know Why you need this information, Who you will
target, the next step is to see How will get it.
Let’s step back.
There are different ways you can get this
market research data: email, phone, web,
even in the shopping mall.
But you have a budget, right?
This means that you need to consider which approaches worked best the last
time. Look at the returns. Based on these results, use the channels that give
you the best return. And, if there is money left over, try the next channel.
Sometimes it’s not that simple.
Maybe you can contact 10 on the phone for the same cost as 100 on the web.
But the quality of data from the phone calls is substantially better than what
you get on the web.
Trained interviewers can probe the person over the phone and extract
information that will not be captured in Multiple Choice questionnaire.
Likewise, the phone caller may volunteer information that you hadn’t thought of.
For this reason, evaluate the best approach to gathering quality information.
You have different options, such as:
- Focus groups
- Observational research
- Interview by Telephone
- Interviews in person
Next, you need to create a Schedule (like a
Project Plan) to put all these tasks
against target dates. The key is successful market research is getting the right
information but also staying within budget. Keep your line manager up-to-date
with your progress and show him the time line for your activities.
Stage 4 – How To Collect Data
The next stage involves collecting the data. While this sounds easy at first
– you just collect it, right? – it can be problematic when the data is
corrupted, conflicts with earlier reports, is received in file formats that are
not compatible with your software, or there are gaps in the data making it hard
for the analysts to draw conclusions.
Here are a few suggestions to collect data:
Train Your Staff
Before you start collecting data, train, educate, and supervise your own
team. If this is the first time engaging in
Market Research Planning at your
company, consider hiring a Consultant to create a framework for your project
One of their tasks will be to show your team how to collect data in an impartial
manner and to avoid interviewer bias.
Make it Sharable
Think of the end goal. You want all the data to be merged into a single
database. Whether this is Microsoft Excel, Access or another tool, it doesn’t
matter. But the data needs to be designed so it can be shared. If you can’t
share the data, it’s harder, it not impossible, to crunch the numbers.
Marketing Plan Template Guide
Fix Corrupt Data
Reduce the likelihood of corrupt data by a) designing simple user interfaces,
b) helping the subject understand what’s expected of them, and c) creating
software that doesn’t crash or timeout during a session.
Other areas where data gets corrupt are simple things such as when users
enter dates. For some 0503 means May the third whereas for others it means the
fifth of March.
Asking folks for their ‘Christian’ name can be both confusing and offensive.
They meant first name.
Microsoft Word templates so they are
easy to read, ensure the web forms that are easy to populate, and that the data
can be captured correctly.
For example, some surveys I've taken demand that I enter my zip code. But we
don’t use zip codes where I live. So, I’m forced to enter incorrect data.
Imagine the confusion that causes?
Stage 5 – Analyze Data
This is where the ‘rubber hits the road.’ You now have the data; you’ve
gathered it from multiple sources, removed corrupt data and looked for
Next up - Analyze This!
Here’s the mistake to avoid. Don’t use the data to confirm what you want
Data is data. 1s and 0s. Oceans of letters.
And it has no meaning until you shape it.
The question is: How do you shape it and avoid your own subjectivity?
The technical term for this is ‘data cleansing’. In other words, you're going
to look at the data and remove any ambiguities, errors or other unknowns that
have crept into the results.
Marketing Plan Template Guides
A good example of this was the US Presidential election between George Bush
and Al Gore.
The problem was ‘hanging
chads’. When voters made their vote, they had to physically make a
hole in election card and knock the chad off. Some voters didn’t knock the chad
off, so it was left hanging onto the card. Was this a vote? Or should it be
Small details like this can have immense impact on the final results. You
need to allow for unknowns creeping into your research results and take steps so
they don’t influence the final results.
How to Clean Data?
Cleaning data involves editing, coding, and tabulating results. To do this,
start with a simply designed
(or a similar tool) and:
- Subjective - Rely
on subjective information to support general findings only.
- Objective - Gather
objective information to support more specific findings. Objective
data gives you a neutral view of how others see your product. If
you ask your team – or even your current customers – what they
think of a new product, more than likely then will tell you what
you want to hear. Those outside the organization will be more
- Look for anomalies and inconsistencies
– if there is a sudden change in the results, look at what
triggered the shift. Likewise, if results from one team conflict
with another team, sit down with them and see how they’re
gathering the data. They may have made some errors in crunching
the numbers or interpreted the results incorrectly.
- Compare – Look at
the results of different data collection methods. For example, if
you run polls online and offline about the same subject, for
example, the customer’s favorite brand on designer shoes, look at
the results and see if they agree.
If you're targeting the same age group and demographics, they
should agree, right? If not, dig deeper and see why 20 something’s
online give different than 20 something’s offline. Hint: people
tend to be more ‘creative with the truth’ online than when
interviewed face to face.
- Use other sources of information
– For example, you can use U.S. Census Bureau statistics on median
income levels for a specific city/state and other official
research findings to give your findings more balance.
Stage 6 – Generate Report Findings
At this point, you should have all the data gathered in
Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and other
formats you can share.
Remember your initial goals?
Break out the findings so it answers the questions you had at project
kickoff. You can show this in, for example, Demographic Comparison or
Competitor Analysis Worksheet.
Use what’s appropriate and make it easy for the reader, especially those
further up the line, to extract the key findings.
Data Analysis usually falls into two categories:
Descriptive Data Analysis
This is where you describe the collected data usually by summarizing the
findings. For example, you can highlight how many liked or disliked your new
product. Use charts and tables to illustrate the data. Provide legends that
explain different categories, volumes or amounts.
Inferential Data Analysis
While Descriptive Data Analysis focused on describing the findings, these are
of limited use until placed in context. That means you try to use information
taken from a small group to ‘infer’ what a larger group would do, compare groups
and see where/how they behaved differently, and forecast what may happen based
on the information you have gathered.
For example, let’s say you want to know how customers from London, Paris, and
Dallas rate different products. You prepare a survey with ten questions asking
customers from all three cities to rate customer satisfaction on a scale of 1 to
Once the survey is completed, you can compare each group using statistical
software and test if differences exist.
Microsoft Excel has some very powerful functions, such as pivot tables
that are very effective at analyzing data.
This type of
marketing analysis offers richer
information than simply showing how many customers from each city responded to
Stage 7 – Choose Best Strategies
Now you have to make a decision.
In some companies your findings will be handed over to other teams,
for example Product Development or the
Marketing Department, for them to decide. It depends on
how you're it structured.
One thing to consider is that the market research should shed light on
new areas. If the findings confirm what you already know, look at how you're
gathering the data, where it comes from, and who compiles the information.
In a dynamic world, findings should rarely stay the same.
‘Were the findings good?’
You may be asked this during your presentation. Findings are neither
good nor bad. They’re a snapshot of how customers see your product, for
How people interpret data is up to them. Your job isn’t – or shouldn’t
be – to skew the data so management hears what they want to hear. If customers
are dissatisfied, it’s their job to remedy it, not yours.
One final tip.
Close on a positive note.
Even if the information is down-beat, look for some positives in the
information you gleaned. Don’t fudge the issues but remind the audience that we
now know more than yesterday.