deloreanjAt Percepta, our first point of contact is at times an overworked product manager blurting, “I need to field a survey on…insert topic here…and I need the data back by…insert excessively tight deadline here.” Our approach is generally to convince them to come down off of the ledge, take a deep breath, and provide us with the answers to three mission critical questions, not necessarily in the order of importance:

  • What do you want to know?
  • Why do you want to know this?
  • What are you going to do with this information?

Question 1: What do you want to know?
Q1 identifies the missing pieces of the “knowledge puzzle” that exist at the client’s organization. Knowledge gaps may be relatively simple, like a need for an up-to-date snapshot of the company’s market share in North America. Or more complex, like understanding the performance specs, QC requirements and delivery schedule for bioproduction-scale culture media at biopharmaceutical manufacturing facilities. Q1 helps us choose the proper market research method (maybe it’s not a survey), and select an appropriate target audience (perhaps biopharma process development and manufacturing scientists).

Question 2: Why do you want to know this?
Q2 provides the project goals and objectives, and crystallizes the overall scope of the study. It tells us precisely what we need to ask end-users and/or potential customers, and also tells us what we don’t need to ask, which is often equally important. Perhaps a client wants market share information to discover whether they are gaining or losing share overall. If so, we can ask the appropriate questions now and also put a plan in place to measure performance regularly, so that the company can plan accordingly.

Question 3: What will you do with the information?
Q3 reveals the business decision riding on the results of the research. For example, a client might be developing marketing campaigns based on an annual marketing budget and thus must decide how to best allocate resources across major product lines. Here is where issues with market research projects often arise. Quality market research must be accurate and actionable – actionable meaning it not only provides the necessary knowledge but also occurs in time to influence decision making. How actionable is customer feedback related to unmet needs for a product that is in the late stages of design?

It’s our job at Percepta to make sure you get the “necessary knowledge” part right. However, lacking the Flux Capacitor (Google it, if you were born after 1977), there isn’t much we can do to fix any “in time to influence decision making” issues. But you can.

Get your organization to think strategically about market research. First, add it to your budget planning. Then three months before strategic planning, meet with your product development or commercial marketing team. Brainstorm, beginning with a focus on Question 3, to clarify the strategic decisions facing your organization in the near term. Then, shift the focus over the next week or so to Questions1 and 2. Identify those areas where knowledge necessary for decision support is lacking and develop a list of goals and objectives for potential marketing research projects designed to address these knowledge gaps.

Need help in guiding this process? Percepta excels at facilitating cross-functional exercises to identify knowledge gaps and develop a market research plan designed to capture information that gives you the confidence you need to make the correct calls for the success of your business.

Companies that effectively coordinate market research with strategic planning excel at developing winning products and implementing the proper metrics to regularly measure sales and marketing effectiveness. Don’t believe me? I’ve got a used DeLorean I’d like to sell you…

Your comments are welcome