The essential dos and don'ts of market research

Lakshmi Singh

Market research is about gauging demand, estimating interest, any pet-hates consumers may have and sourcing a list of “nice-to-haves”.

Do it well and you’re on the road to make informed decisions about your venture. Here are some Dos and Don’ts when it comes to conducting thorough market research.

Right questions for the right people

Do – Natalie Chapman, Managing Director of gemaker, a technology commercialisation consultancy says it is important to choose a sample representative of your intended consumers.

“Identify who the end customer is and who are influencers to the buying decision and interview them both,” she says.

Do – ask what product or service they use now to alleviate their problem, then find out if your suggested solution will solve their problem, says Chapman.

You shouldn’t shy away from asking awkward questions, such as: “What would stop you buying my product?”

Don’t – just choose people like you or your family and friends, she says.

However, exceptions can be made if your target audience is niche and can contribute to specific insights, as Anee Sampath, founder and director of Malgudi Days, a South Indian filter coffee product, found out.

 “The survey we did for our South Indian family and friends was focussed on trying to understand the driver behind why they would switch from their current coffee product to our South Indian filter coffee and for taste assessments,” he says.

"Leverage your networks – existing relationships with a University and mates really simplified our market research efforts,” Anee Sampath.

Methods of research

Do – conduct both primary and secondary research.

Hunter Leonard, founder of Blue Frog Marketing says primary research will help you understand “points about your brand in the eyes of that consumer”.

Use this information to get real time, custom information about your brand, he says.

Secondary research can supplement and even inform questions to pose during primary research, says Sampath.

“Scouring Indian publications, current data from the ABS and Coffee journals helped us design primary research methods.”

Do – both qualitative and quantitative research. 

“Qualitative frames the issues of relevance in your customer’s mind. Quantitative puts metrics on these issues as to which are most important, or most common within that segment,” says Leonard.

Don’t – design questions and workflows using jargon or product know-how that only you could relate to.

For example, for a tech product, Chapman cautions against making assumptions of the target audience in terms of their technical knowledge or savviness.

“Don’t rely on your own bias,” she says.

“In research it almost never matters what you think, it always matters what your audience thinks,” Hunter Leonard."

Analysing and acting on results

Do – consider borrowing concepts from the tech industry, like developing user stories when analysing research results.

Luke Hohnmann, CEO of Conteneo Inc. told the Agile 2015 conference that uncovering unmet customer needs and combining that with your team’s ideas and analysis can form effective user stories (a tool used to help refine product features).

Do – use automatic analysis tools available for shorter surveys conducted through programs like Survey Monkey, says Chapman.

“Excel is great and simple for comparing product features and pricing,” she says.

Sampath found that using a custom-made BI application was extremely helpful in generating visuals that informed pricing strategy, seasonal forecasting and what marketing channels to use.

Don’t – make assumptions, if results are unclear or ambiguous, continue the research, says Leonard.

“Also, never jump to conclusions – such as trying to infer something that isn’t there. For instance if you saw that 90% of people would refer you, don’t base business development models on actually getting 90% of people to refer you, because ‘would refer’ and ‘have referred’ are two very different things,” he says.

Lakshmi Singh

Lakshmi Singh is a freelance writer across a range of sectors including technology, business, lifestyle and health. Her work has been published in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Sunday Telegraph.

Image: University of the Fraser Valley, Flickr Creative Commons License