Where to Start With Market Research: Part 1

October 25, 2016

You’re already sold on the importance of market research. You know that the best way to save money, save time, and drive true innovation within your company is to base your decision-making process on data that you collect about your exact audience and niche.

Running a successful market research project is complicated. There are many steps along the way, each with its own unique challenges. The reward, however, is greater than the sum of the challenges. We know this from personal experience building our own software from the ground up, adding and modifying features to best address the needs of our customers while growing our market share.

This is a quick overview and guide to conducting market research with Alchemer. In this three part series, we’ll be going over just a few examples of how you can use one tool (Alchemer) to design, launch, analyze, and act on your market research.

First, we start with the absolute step one of your market research project: defining the question you want to have answered. From this point, all other methods and tactics follow.

Then, we will look at three different kinds of market research surveys, how to think about them while you are in the planning phase, and how to implement them effectively. These are:

  • Customer Attitudes and Expectations
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Conjoint Price Analysis

Finally, we address best practices for conducting research with surveys to ensure that you are reaching your audience effectively. The accuracy and helpfulness of your data depends entirely on the quality of the responses you collect. By reaching the right people, you’ll access the set of insights your company needs to succeed.


Know Where to Start Your Market Research: the Question

While it may be tempting to gather a team of your best employees together and tell them to “do market research,” this approach will get you nowhere fast. Whenever you research your customers or target audience, you’re bound to collect interesting data. Collecting truly useful data, however, is unlikely.

If you don’t go into your research phase with a plan, you’re guaranteed to get distracted by cluttered data and slapdash methods – the market research version of shiny object syndrome.

Don’t waste time or money, and don’t get mislead by incomplete or inconsistent data. Start your market research project with a question.

That’s right. Start with just one question.

There are many ways of conducting market research and many different survey types that you can leverage to collect the data you’re looking for. Which methods and tools you use depends entirely on what question you seek to answer.

For example:

  • What are your current customers attitudes and expectations about your brand and products?
  • What are your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses?
  • How much would people be willing to pay for your new product?

These three questions can only be answered individually, and each requires their own unique survey. In this series, we’ll take a look at each one.


Measure Customer Attitudes and Expectations with Market Research Surveys

If you don’t know what your customers really think about your industry, business, products, or services, it’s time to find out.

As an aside, measuring attitudes and expectations is different from measuring overall levels of customer satisfaction, although to two influence one another. Think of it this way: a particular customer may mark themselves as “satisfied,” but if you find out that this customer had a very low expectation to begin with, then “satisfied” simply means you met their low expectations.

To be truly excellent, you need to set high expectations of product and service quality and meet those expectations again and again.

In addition to improving customer satisfaction over time, attitude and expectation surveys can give you insight into your website’s performance, service policies, ideas for new divisions or products, and even tracking internal employee attitudes.

Mostly, the purpose of running attitude and expectations surveys in the context of a market research initiative is to measure changes in customer attitudes and expectations over time, to try to identify why those changes are happening, to see how those changes affect (or do not affect) your bottom line.


Why Should You Run an Attitude and Expectations Survey?

As we’ve stated, having satisfied customers means understanding the attitudes and expectations they have towards your product or service. This is why you’re conducting market research in the first place, otherwise you’re just flying blind into the market without any clear indication of how your company can perform.

The quickest, easiest, and most direct way to ensure this understanding is through the implementation of an attitude and expectations survey.

But why, exactly, is this type of survey important?

In measuring customer attitude towards a particular product or service, you gain an understanding of their perceptions, tastes and opinions as a consumer, the primary role in which they occupy as they interact with your product or service in the market. You wouldn’t want to offer your customers something directly opposing their tastes or preferences, just as you wouldn’t want to miss out on a potential area of mass appeal with a large customer base.

Thus, the market researcher researches and records customer attitude by implementing an attitudes and expectations survey, compiling the areas of positive attitude for further research and removing the negative from consideration completely.

Now that you have an understanding of your customers’ attitudes towards specific products and services, it’s important to also learn their expectations in these areas. As mentioned in the previous section, the goal is to set customer expectations high for what you have to offer in order to impress them by continually meeting (and often, exceeding) these expectations. Again, when expectations are low, meeting them does little to truly wow your customers into committed patronage.

As a result, the market researcher must also survey customers on their expectations regularly. The results yield the basis for in depth reports that funnel directly into company-wide market strategy. By focusing efforts on all areas of high expectation and weeding out the low (combined with the already assessed customer attitudes), you are able to paint a vivid portrait of what products and services will trigger the most customer satisfaction on a continuous basis and form a razor-sharp market penetration plan around this information.

We must emphasize: measuring expectations and attitudes is not a one time endeavor. By checking in with your customers regularly, you will also be helping your future market research efforts. Use the data you collect now to inform your decisions around the kind of questions you ask about your competitors and the kinds of product and service improvements you make in the future.


What’s Next in This Series on Market Research?

Read the next article in this three part series where we cover how surveys can be used to collect, store, and analyze data for even your most complex competative analysis surveys (plus some tips on how to get the most from your respondents.


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