The big pitch: how to conduct market research

Let’s imagine you have an exciting new idea for how you can develop your existing product range or service offering but need to convince the powers that be. Or maybe you want to refresh your current branding to help expand your growing business into new markets.

Perhaps you have an upcoming meeting with investors to discuss funding for a new technology service. Or even a big pitch for a major retailer to get your products on their shelves. Where do you start?

No matter what your situation may be, you need to be confident that your target audience actually needs or wants what you’re offering. So you’ll firstly need proof to back up your pitch or idea. And that proof lies in your customer research.

Easy if you’re a large corporation with its own market research team or thousands of pounds to throw at research companies. Not quite so easy if time and money aren’t on your side though, right?

You’d be forgiven for thinking consumer research will cost a fortune, or take several weeks, to carry out – but that needn’t be the case. There are a number of ways to conduct research on a budget, in 72 hours or less without having to hire a market research company.

DECIDING ON THE RESEARCH METHOD

The methods you use will depend on a number of factors – such as cost, time, depth of insight, the volume of data and, of course, the type of market research being carried out.

Quantitative (numerical) data is definitive and easier to measure – useful if you need statistics and figures or tables and charts to back up your idea. And if you’re after high volumes of data which can be processed quickly and simply, quantitative research is your best bet. For example, you could get people to give their opinion by scoring it on a scale or ask them to choose their favourite of three options.

In comparison, qualitative data is descriptive which is valuable if you need to gain further insights into your consumers’ opinions. Whereas quantitative data will tell you what your audience thinks, qualitative data will provide you with a deeper understanding of why they think or feel what they do.

Focus groups and interviews

Focus groups and interviews are some of the most popular qualitative research methods; however, they are time-consuming and can often be costly to carry out.

Focus groups also revolve around what the person knows, perceives and understands – meaning that answers can easily be skewed or influenced. For example, when one person in the group blurts out an opinion, everyone else’s thoughts are going to be swayed by that opinion and this will affect their own answers.

Similarly, people are more likely to avoid giving negative opinions when being interviewed and may feel under pressure to be overly complimentary. Especially if the person conducting the interview works for the brand in question.

Ethnography

Otherwise known as ‘observation research’, this approach is almost completely free of bias and is useful when conducting product research. Ethnography involves someone visiting stores ‘undercover’ to watch consumers while they shop, read labels, and interact with the product in their natural shopping environment.

Ideally, the staff member would need to visit around 10 stores that sell your products to get a comprehensive overview of how consumers interact with them. Meaning that, as with interviews and focus groups, this research method can be time-consuming.

Online surveys

If time and money are not on your side – as is often the case in business – then online surveys can prove highly effective, even with as little as 72 hours to work with.

Although you may not achieve the same depth of insight as you would with an interview or focus group, surveys are useful if you need a high volume of data from a range of different people. And while they are typically associated with quantitative data such as graphs and charts, surveys can actually provide you with a mix of both quantitative and qualitative results.

There are plenty of online survey platforms to choose from – such as SurveyMonkey, SmartSurvey, Typeform and eSurvey –  which cater for a range of requirements. From conducting occasional or one-off small-scale surveys, to running regular ones on a grander scale.

 FINDING AN AUDIENCE FOR YOUR SURVEY

When you’re strapped for time or working on a tight budget, it can be tempting to ask colleagues, friends or family to quickly fill out a questionnaire. But unless they happen to fall into your target demographic, you’ll be wasting your time.

Many companies – such as Onepoll, SurveyGoo and some of those mentioned above – take the hard work out of finding a sample by providing audience panel services.

A panel consists of individuals who meet a range of criteria – from their age, gender and geographical location to lifestyle factors such as household income, education, hobbies or interests. The survey companies then select respondents from their panels based on your specified target demographic. Costs will then depend on the volume of responses you wish to achieve.

Alternatively, you could consider your social media following as well—do you have a large pool of active followers you could tap into? Or a (GDPR compliant!) database of existing customers who you could talk to as part of your research? As long as people have consented for their data to be used for this purpose of course.

Try to think of other places that relevant consumers frequent as well – either on or offline. Are they active on any forums? What types of extracurricular activities do they take part in – could you target them through their local sports or hobby club, for example? Without being intrusive of course.

You may even want to think about providing incentives, such as free product samples, to encourage people to participate in surveys.

ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

So, you’ve decided to conduct a survey and selected an audience sample, but what questions should you be asking? Depending on your specific situation, you may find it useful to include both qualitative and quantitative questions to get a mix of clear statistics and deeper insights.

To get the best responses, we find it helps to guide people with specific instructions. This could mean asking them to describe their initial impression of a product in just three words, or asking them to give answers on a scale in order to gauge their opinion – 1 to 6 with 6 being the most positive, for example.

And on that note, here’s a final tip for you – we would always suggest using a scale with an even number, as one with an odd number makes it far too easy for people to just pick the middle option, and hence not really given an opinion at all!

When it comes to conducting successful surveys we have a wealth of experience. Most recently, we carried out market research for our client Dermatonics. From giving advice on which platforms to use and finding an audience panel, to writing the survey itself, analysing the results and drafting a report on our findings.

Dermatonics provides a range of products for the treatment and relief of a variety of dry skin conditions – and this research was designed to help test out the new product branding. Following a successful first run, we are now working with the team to carry out further research about other products in the range. And owner Greg Andrell was kind enough to share these words:

‘I am delighted with the work Shine has carried out for us so far. Nothing was too much trouble – with Sam and her team always being on hand to answer any questions and make helpful and practical suggestions. We were kept updated about progress every step of the way and, despite tight deadlines, the survey was delivered in a timely manner and produced highly useful and insightful results. I look forward to continuing working with Shine in the next stages of this project.’

To find out more about how we can help you to conduct efficient and cost-effective surveys for your business, please email anna@shinecreative.co.uk.