Market Research Pitfalls, Part 2: Avoiding the “now what do we do with this information” problem

How often have you been presented with market research that, even if well executed, leaves you saying “that’s great, now what do we do with this information?” In our experience, this happens with remarkable frequency and stems from the fact that those responsible for commissioning and even conducting the research fail to keep in mind the most fundamental tenet of any research initiative: you have to be able to articulate how the insights gained will affect future strategy decisions.

Like any investment, research should be justified through its impact on the top and bottom lines. The exercise of building the case for strategically important research should lead to the development of valuable insights because building the case requires defining exactly how the research will impact strategy. Thinking through and committing to a set of strategic insights enables the design of more efficient research because it forces the definition of what should—and shouldn’t be—included in the research objectives. If you can’t articulate how an element of the research will deliver insights that can lead to meaningful, strategic decisions, you shouldn’t include it.

Developing a strategic justification for each question pushes aside superfluous questions and forces the research instrument to be lean. In this regard, the exercise serves as a powerful tool for beating back the almost inevitable requests for additional questions that don’t deliver on the strategic objectives. As with the overall research objectives, any additional question that fails this “describe the strategic insight” test should be targeted for elimination.

Defining the strategic justification for every research initiative and all its components may seem to be too significant an effort, but the investment will deliver multi-faceted benefits in both the short and long terms. Articulating the strategic value and impact of the research and questions reduces waste in the research design phase by pushing aside extraneous elements and questions. This, in turn increases the efficiency of the research as it leads to more precise surveys and interviews that enjoy a better completion rate and more reliable data. Finally, this exercise ensures that when it comes time to report out on the research findings, the link between the insights and strategic issues is easily and powerfully expressed—which strengthens the organization’s confidence in the value of the research and ability to apply it.