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3 Smart Ways to Get More Value from Your Research

Looking to provide great insights to your team? But finding you’re victim to the Incredible Shrinking Research Budget? Here’s how to be more efficient yet still deliver powerful results.

Narrow your focus.

Maybe your instinct is to “go broad” and include more stakeholder objectives in your surveys. This may seem like a good way to keep everybody happy but could actually be harmful to your research. If you want to provide truly actionable feedback –and therefore better ROI– it’s wise to stay focused and go deeper on one topic.

By zeroing-in on a very short list of research questions, you can get more depth of information with the same budget that would have been spent on a broad, superficial look at several issues.

This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised by how often the “since we’re talking to them anyway…” argument ends up diluting the effectiveness of research projects.
Since everyone in the market has a good understanding of the basics that drive customer behavior, these deeper layers of learning are often what it takes to outmaneuver the competition.

Be ruthless about tying research to action.

As you’re planning the research, really push your internal clients to answer the question: “what will you do with the outcome of this research?”

Do not accept any answer that is not a clear, concrete action step. If you do get vague responses, keep probing. This process will help you…

a) alter the research to better fit what your client really needs to know
b) get your client to stay focused on their true objective

If this exercise doesn’t produce a clear link between the research and real, tangible actions to be taken, the best thing to do is to kill the project. Remember, money spent on research is wasted if no one does anything with the results.

Report information — not data.

How many times have you hired a research supplier and received a report of findings that was little more than a bar chart of each question?

After spending all that time upfront getting the project focused, you need a deliverable that hands your team the answers they need.

Structure your reports around the core research questions and the insights gained, not around the survey questions. Tell the story in the data by organizing your report something like this:


This format makes the WHAT take a back seat to the SO WHAT– as it should. Demand your research supplier (if you’re using one) deliver results in this format. If they can’t do it, find another supplier.

Case study: Take the time to take inventory

While tracking studies are useful for monitoring brand health they can easily become too lengthy and lose their focus. Don’t waste valuable respondent time on questions that aren’t really adding value.

Recently we sat down with one of our clients to review a tracking study that had been running for several years. We analyzed their current survey to figure out how to make it more efficient and insight-friendly. We were able to trim down the survey and omit unnecessary questions. For example, respondents were asked where they’d heard about the client’s brand. Historically, their answers had never changed – everyone learned about the brand from the same two sources – and no one could envision a scenario where it would change in the near future. This wasn’t providing any new information so it was removed.

We also found ways to rotate some questions in or out of the survey depending upon business activity. This allowed them to ask these questions when it really counted – at the time they could (and would) take action based on the results.

So there you have three ways to extract more value from the research dollars you spend. Putting any one of them to use can help you make great strides in increasing ROI. Applying them all could very well make you a legend within your company.


About the Author

At Erickson Research, a Chicago market research consulting firm, I specialize in probing the minds of consumers and professionals -- revealing what truly matters to them...and why. Find me on LinkedIn.

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