Written By DJS Research Ltd a leading UK market research company
There are three key research techniques for firms: desk research, qualitative research and quantitative research.
Desk research – searching for published information
Desk research is fast and inexpensive. It is a process of discovery and evolution. Perseverance and a desire to get into a subject and an ability to get the most out of colleagues and people such as information librarians tends to pay off. Much of desk research can now be completed via the Internet. It is particularly useful for accessing industry data, market share data and competitive information.
Desk research takes time and can be enhanced by following these guidelines:
-Have a clear idea of what you are looking for as it is easy to get distracted on the Internet;
-Start with a general overview of what is available;
-Call others who may be able to help or suggest other useful sources of information;
-Write down useful sites/contacts or information;
-Order any publications or reports that you think might be useful? – there is a lot of free information;
-Review what you have found and check that your key information needs are being met.
If desk research does not solve your need for information then it is appropriate to set up a survey research. To initiate this process it is necessary to undertake qualitative research.
Qualitative research – understanding clients and their needs
The relationships that firms have with clients, suppliers and/or stakeholders need to be managed and developed. A questionnaire needs to take into consideration commercial and relational sensitivities. It is therefore important that the research represents the firm well and the manner of the project should enhance rather than threaten the existing relationship.
Qualitative research assists in the survey development process and can be completed through brainstorm workshops, in-depth interviews and focus groups. In-depth interviews are individual interviews with respondents and can be conducted by telephone or in person whilst a focus group is a structured discussion among 6–8 respondents who participate in the discussion led by a facilitator, independent of the firm.
For a firm completing research by getting respondents together at the same time is a problem. So it is more common to set up “mini-groups” over a lunch or a drink and these tend to be more productive as they are not dissimilar to holding a planning meeting and bouncing issues off each other. What is important in qualitative research is to manage the process carefully.
The following provides the key issues to successful firm qualitative research:
-Review the research objectives, so there is a clear outline of what the research needs to achieve, why and how it might be used;
-Design a research plan including what methodology is suggested;
-Consider the sample size and stratification by different client types and length of time it takes to prepare a sample list;
-Decide if an incentive should be given to the respondent to enhance the response rate, as many respondents need to be persuaded to take part in research;
-Draw up recruitment guidelines to ensure that the suitable and eligible respondents are recruited and that you interview the appropriate respondent;
-Develop a topic guide by consulting all those in the team who need information from the project;
-Complete the research work;
-If a tape or video recording has been completed during the interview review the information from this;
-Analyse the information by identifying the major themes emerging, what was emphasised most and what was mentioned most often;
-List all the positive and negative responses and review how they impact on the Firm’s understanding of Client needs;
-Develop a presentation on the results and discuss this with colleagues;
-Prepare a report on the results and summary of the action points.
If you are not familiar with research interviewing it is important to realise it is very different from recruitment interviewing.
These are some of the tips to bear in mind in market research interviewing:
-If you are showing the respondent any information ensure that you have it ready for the point of the interview you need to show it – fumbling around for papers or putting them in the correct order can disturb the flow of the interview and it is better to be pre-prepared.
-If you are recording the interview please be sure to ask the respondent if he agrees to this being done for analysis purposes only – it is a requirement of the Code of Conduct of the Market Research Society which regulates the procedures for completing interviews.
-Keep the topic guide short – the maximum time for an in-depth interview is 40 minutes and a Focus Group is an hour and a half.
-Prioritise the topic guide and questions to ask in advance to ensure that you cover the key questions.
-Be prepared to be flexible – if the discussion follows a certain direction follow the sequence set by the respondent and try to ensure that you do not repeat them just because they are listed on your own topic guide in a different order.
-Encourage the respondent by showing that you are listening and interested.? When timely add in a probing question.? It is also important to give the respondent the opportunity to express themselves about any areas of particular interest to them.
-Towards the end of the interview sum up the major points the respondent has made to stimulate confirmation of them but also to identify if the respondents emphasises any of them.
Analysis of the data depends entirely on your own interpretation of the issues identified in the research. Make notes immediately after the end of the interview and then compare these with information you identify when listening to the tapes. The analysis has to be organised – the conclusions are not going to drop out of the interviews. The following is a sequence which can help with analysis and drawing conclusions from qualitative research:
-Write down the “top line” findings or implications before doing any other analysis;
-Revisit your aims for the survey and review the data to see if there is any part of the analysis that adds to the key findings or the conclusions;
-Draw up the framework for the report by deciding what the main areas that can be documented are;
-Decide what the main themes or topics of the report are;
-Should it be written positively or negatively in relation to the original objectives;
-Has the research provided anything new or different;
Consider the best words and phrases to use – keep in mind the respondent’s language and identify how best to communicate results and or recommendations.
A firm that completes successful qualitative research is one that feels the research has provided insight into the attitudes and motivations of clients. But there are also opportunities to complete research which provides statistical analysis and this is completed via quantitative research.
Quantitative research – segmenting clients
Quantitative research is used by a firm to identify the priorities for products and services amongst the total client base, but also to establish differences in the segments or group of clients to ensure products and services are “customised”.
The essence of quantitative research is to develop a relevant and well-designed questionnaire and identify how relevant it is to a representative sample of Clients. Good questionnaire writing is a no to low cost option in any survey, which has the ultimate reward in delivering the best or most accurate answers.
Questionnaires are written in many different ways, to be used in a variety of situations and with many data-gathering media. What needs to be considered is how to achieve the “best” or most accurate answers. In all cases the role of the questionnaire is to provide a standardised interview so that respondents are asked questions that are appropriate to them and in the same way. The questionnaire is a medium of communication between the firm and its client. It is a conversation between two people, albeit they are remote from each other and never communicate directly.
There a number of different stakeholders in the questionnaire, on each of whom the way in which it is written and laid out will have an effect. There can be up to five different groups of people who have an interest in the questionnaire and each one has a different requirement of it:
-You require the questionnaire to collect information that will enable clients to answer the firm’s business objectives;
-The interviewers administering the questionnaire need a vehicle that is straightforward to administer containing questions that are easily understood by respondents and so that responses can easily be recorded;
-Respondents want questions that they can answer without too much effort and that maintains their interest without taking up too much of their time;
-The data processors want a questionnaire layout that allows for uncomplicated data entry and straightforward production of data tables;
-The questionnaire writer has to meet all of these people’s needs and to do so whilst working within the parameters of a budget that has usually been agreed because of the interview length and survey structure.
Therefore the questionnaire writer’s job can be summarised as being able to write a questionnaire that collects the data required to answer the objectives of the study as objectively as possible and without irritating respondents, whilst minimising the likelihood of error occurring at any stage in the data collection and analysis process.
A firm is likely to rely more on self-completion questionnaires than personal or telephone interviews because of cost constraints. They provide the advantage of including descriptive material that can be evaluated, written descriptions of pictures of new concepts, products or ideas and drawings and photographs.