Choosing the Correct Market Research Methodologies for a Market Research Study

You've been charged with managing a market research project for your organization. You've completed the first step, developing a written set of objectives for the study, right? No? Well, get to it, for from the objectives all else flows, especially the choice of which market research methodologies.

We've had the experience (many times over) of having managers come to us and say, "we need to do some focus groups about [some issue]." When we were young and green, we often simply complied and through the school of hard knocks discovered that at the end of the project, management was unhappy because they did not have the information they really needed to answer the questions they had. Of course, at that time, we didn't really know what they wanted to know, we had not learned to insist on project objectives.

Typically, management wants to know two things: what customers are doing, what they're buying, where they're buying it, how they're using it, what competitive products and/or services customers are using, and why they are doing what they are doing.

The activities and behaviors of customers or potential customers can be measured through quantitative market research. The why they are doing it (and especially the emotional roots of why) can only be learned through qualitative market research.

Thus, we'll go out on the proverbial limb here. Most projects need both qualitative and quantitative market research to fulfill managerial information needs.

And typically, projects will be executed in that sequence: first qualitative, to understand the underlying emotions (the whys) and the range of behaviors and activities customers engage in, and second, quantitative, to measure it all.

In some cases, only one or the other is necessary. Suppose you're doing a disaster check on a new statement your company is about to introduce. Taking the statement into focus groups will tell you almost instantly whether customers are going to be pleased, disgusted, or nonchalant. Similarly, your company may have sent out a direct mail piece on a new product or service to existing customers. You may need to measure how many of them recalled receiving it, how many read it, and how many can recall a specific message they saw.

In the end, we'll repeat, choice of methodology comes down to how to meet the objectives of the study. Once you have agreement on the objectives, it is usually patently obviously what methodology to use.

Now, on to choosing the appropriate population for your study.

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