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Market Research

Understand your customer

You won’t find many marketing agencies talking about market research, especially not putting it front-and-centre like we do at Zen DMA. Unfortunately, and incorrectly, many businesses see market research as an unnecessary expense. To us, market research should be the very foundation of any business, no matter its size, as it essentially - if carried out correctly - asks your target audience whether you’re going in the right direction, be that in relation to a new idea and resulting business start-up, a brand or logo, the creation of a new product or service, or even a change to an existing product or service; market research has a plethora of business use cases. The only caveat to market research is that you need to be thick-skinned to conduct a market research study, as the results can often be both revealing and surprising. However, regardless of whether you receive positive or negative feedback, the research findings will ultimately provide invaluable insights. Positive feedback will in-still business confidence and suggest refinements to your idea, whereas negative feedback will ultimately save you time and thousands of pounds of following a bad idea - essentially it’s a win-win situation either way. If you’d like to know more about market research we’d advise you to continue reading below or contact our Lichfield or Hull office for a no-obligation chat.

Market Research - Foundationally The Most Important Part of Any Business

We doubt you’ll find any other agency that understands not only the importance of market research but how to correctly plan and conduct a market research study. Our knowledge and experience spans over 25 years of actively working in the research industry and having our very own, and highly successful, market research agency and sister company MRFGR (Market Research For Greater Results) naturally means we are at the forefront of market research as we work closely with each other on many projects. MRFGR works for a multitude of major blue-chip companies you see today, an abundance of other marketing and creative agencies, and other competitor market research firms (yes, they’re that good!) and prides itself on providing value based research, and is the main reason that ‘many’ of their clients come back to them time and time again. In short, you couldn’t find a better pairing of companies.

Why We’re So Good At Market Research

Let’s start by saying there’s always a bit of confusion over the difference between the naming conventions of ‘market research’ and ‘marketing research’, but essentially they’re the same thing, and used interchangeably (market research being the more popular - and we’d say correct - way of saying things). We’re not going to bore you with the story of market research and all its intricacies, because that’s more for a dedicated market research site like MRFGR, but it’s important to know the basics and what it can deliver. The top five use case for market research are as follows:

MARKET RESEARCH USE CASE 1 - Initial Business Idea & Concept Testing. Everyone has those great idea moments, and a few of them end up to be very successful businesses, but many, fueled by misguided feedback and ‘validation’ from encouraging friends and family fail spectacularly. This is where market research comes into its own. Depending on the size and type of business, some initial market research utilising a desk study (research that is already available), and/or a survey, and/or qualitative discussions with prospective client segments can provide some invaluable insights to assess the business viability before you invest more, time, energy and money into your project.

MARKET RESEARCH USE CASE 2 - New Services Testing. Companies develop new services all the time, but how many of them actually conduct a market research feasibility study before they do? Larger more successful businesses usually ‘think’ they know what their customers want, but for large investments, wouldn’t it be better to be sure of that need; market research provides that insurance policy.

MARKET RESEARCH USE CASE 3 - Logo & Brand Testing. Design can be a contentious area of debate and no less so than logos and brand concepts. It’s important to get objective feedback on your designs, regardless of the size of your company, afterall, your logo is generally used for a significant period of time, and even if subsequent changes are made down the line, they’re still generally very much in keeping with the original design. Get it right first time, don’t leave it to personal taste - the majority need to like it, not the minority.

MARKET RESEARCH USE CASE 4 - Name Testing. Naming companies, services, products, and tag-lines (to name a few) is perhaps what we feel is one of the most difficult areas of business today. Naming is incredibly important and the digital age makes it much more difficult with the proliferation of new businesses popping up daily (probably by the minute) across the world, all laying claim to new and exciting naming conventions, and all having very limited capacity to fully own the naming rights across all platforms (think .com and other domain variants, companies house, trademark registry, and more). Conversely, this has led to most businesses coming up with names that are unknowingly already in use, or having to create new ‘Alien’ words or misspellings of current words. In these instances, market research can uncover whether there’s a naming conflict, and if there is a conflict if it could be confused with the existing company, and assess - where words have been misspelt or created - whether these are acceptable (ideally loved) by your paying public, and can identify with your business offering.

MARKET RESEARCH USE CASE 5 - Marketing Collateral Testing. Okay, your marketing company has identified (hopefully through some thorough market research) what they feel is a great marketing angle and has produced a selection of supporting marketing collateral to choose from (some billboard designs for example), but which do you choose? Are you confident you’re making the right selection? Is the main marketing message better in the first advert or the third? What colours seem to work best? These are just some of the questions that market research can help answer, ensuring that you choose right first time.

MARKET RESEARCH USE CASE 6 - Product Testing. You’ve got your first working prototype of your product, you’ve tested it on friends and family, but are you confident they’re telling you their truthful opinion? Would they tell you if they didn’t like it or if there were some issues that needed addressing? Are they the likely user type of your product and thus understand its usefulness or functionality? Would they sugar-coat their feed-back, mistakenly letting you go into final production with unidentified issues?Objective product feedback through a well designed market research plan can ensure this doesn’t happen, with all issues identified and addressed by actual users before it goes to market.

MARKET RESEARCH USE CASE 7 - Customer Feedback. Often new business opportunities can be identified through existing customer feedback (another major market research practice), but what percentage of companies actually actually do this and actively talk to their customers and understand their pain points and needs? Often, a business’s existing customer base is taken for granted, with most of its marketing efforts being spent on attracting new customers. Even a small, well planned and executed market research customer feedback survey (or customer interviews) can yield a small treasure trove of feedback and ideas for driving the business forward.

Market Research Use Cases

The cost of market research is very much like marketing, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it, but for arguments sake market research projects can vary in price from as little as £1200 for a 100 person survey (with incentives included) - which is often enough for smaller businesses to get feedback on new ideas or logo designs etc - increasing to £4000 for a more thorough and informative market research study including project planning and management, survey, two focus groups (with ‘general’ consumers), incentives, moderation and summary report and findings. Note that prices can vary depending on a myriad of factors, but generally the prices above would be for a standard consumer group (Joe Average/General Population type respondent). Projects are cheaper if you are using your own customer database as this cuts out a lot of work in terms of finding the right type of people to answer your research questions. Prices will increase (1) the more people you question or speak with, (2) if the respondent type you require is more difficult to find and use in a research project (for example surgeons where they’re harder to find and convince to partake in the research, and you have to pay them a significantly larger incentive), and (3) the more locations you conduct research in (mainly if you’re conducting in-person interviews or groups).

Market Research Costs.

There are several ways in which to conduct market research, but let’s first consider the two main types of research, quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research is research that is based on numbered quantities and consists of ‘primary’ research and ‘secondary’ research. Primary would include your own surveys, interviews (using standardised questions), and documentation/data review (existing business data metrics such as website analytics etc). Secondary data would refer to other peoples’ published academic research, surveys & polls, and government reports. Qualitative research is what we deem more in-depth and rounded research and is thus difficult to quantify, a perfect example being a customer interview or a focus group (to name a few), where the interview could not really be quantified as it’s a conversation. Ideally, a good market research project will include both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies (depending on a multitude of factors). 

The following demonstrate the basic steps for conducting market research.

Step 1 - What Do You Want To Know. Determine what you are trying to find out. For example, what people might think of your new proposed service, product or idea?

Step 2 - Research Plan & Budget. Consider how you want to execute the market research. This is usually where projects fall down as without the requisite hands-on experience of planning and executing a successful market research project the resulting insights could effectively be useless, so this is probably the most important part of the process where you’ll need a market research expert to advise you. The research plan more or less coincides with the budgeting of the project in that from planning you’ll know how you want to conduct the research which will in turn determine the likely costs. If the costs are too great, you’ll then have to reduce elements of the research process i.e perhaps reduce the number of respondents, or consider less locations, or reduce the incentives etc, all however will have an effect on the research process and insights obtained.

Step 3 - Design & Create the Survey and/or Discussion Guide/s. Following the research plan you’ll need to create the survey or discussion guide. For a survey, you should consider (1) how you are going to pose the questions and responses and (2) the length/duration of the survey (how many questions you are going to ask). Closed questions are usually easier and faster for the respondent to complete. Additionally the resulting data is that much easier to extrapolate and to interpret into quick, and to-the-point, insights. The downside to closed questioning is that you miss the qualitative data which would provide (1) far more descriptive answers and (2) more enlightening responses that you may not have considered when planning a closed-question type survey. Open questions, even though they can provide greater insight are (1) usually longer for the survey respondent to complete (and thus more hassle, which then questions the validity of their answers) and (2) are much harder to interpret into real data and insights (it’s generally not quantitative like closed questions so are more or less impossible to port into a spreadsheet or similar to extrapolate insights). The most effective surveys that generate swift and informative responses are those that are well thought out, short, clear and concise. For a discussion guide - usually for focus groups, one-to-one/depth interviews, or workshops - you need to consider that the guide should be a ‘guide’ and not a rigid questionnaire for the moderator (the person - usually a professional - that questions the respondents) to follow. It should only include the main areas of discussion, otherwise it can lead to a stilted discussion that does not allow for any conversational movement outside the bounds of the guide (such movement allowing for greater insight that may not have been considered in the original document).

Step 4 - Respondent Types Determine the type of people that you should be surveying/interviewing. For example, what type of person/s might be interested in said service/product/idea. Such insights are usually derived from planning the survey or discussion guide (see Step 3).

Step 5 - Respondent Screening & Selection Create a ‘screener’ (in 99% of cases via an online survey) that can be sent out to users/panels/market research companies that guides a prospective respondent through a series of short questions to determine their suitability for the research study. For example, age, location, gender, ethnicity, income, job title, job position, etc. For surveys the screener is usually included at the start of the survey to determine suitability, those screening successfully continuing on with the main survey questions (and this continues until the quota of respondents has been met), those that have screened out are quickly exited from the survey. For interviews, focus groups or workshops, respondent selection and recruitment is very different, as it requires you to know that not only does the respondent screen according to your requirements, but also (1) they are talkative and conducive to a conversation scenario, (2) are intelligible and can be understood, (3) they are available for the given time and dates, (4) they have the means to attend the interview i.e. they have transport if it’s an offline group or they have the technology that works if it’s a video discussion, and (5) the incentive is of significant interest to them. To assess these points it’s imperative that the respondents are called and spoken to on the phone (as opposed to relying purely on email communications). Again, this is an important skill that should be demonstrated through a good market research agency or a specialist market research respondent recruitment company. Point of note: it’s always worth over-recruiting respondents to cover any possible no-shows, so if you need eight in a focus group, recruit for ten. If the full ten arrive at least you can still use them to elicit more information. Also, ensure you have a reserve list of screened respondents that you can call on at a moments-notice in the event that someone cannot attend. Additionally, we’d always advise you to have at least three touch-points with potential respondents before the research date. For example, (1st) an email to assess their interest, (2nd) a follow-up call (as described above), (3rd) a second call nearer the time of the actual research (generally a day or two before), (4th) a final contact either by telephone or sms on the morning of the research.

Step 6 - Select Panels / Schedule Respondents / Book Venues For surveys you’ll need to consider the panel (effectively a database of willing respondents) that you’re going to use to distribute your survey to. These can either be (1) internal panels e.g. your own customer database (make sure you are GDPR compliant and have permission to approach them!) or (2) external panels. External panel providers are again a very specialist area of the market research industry and you should take great care when selecting a panel company. As it’s an unregulated industry there are many cow-boy firms out there, so ensure you carry out your due-diligence and make sure the panel company is legit (it goes without saying that many panels have fake respondents with some even using robot responses!). Remember if the panel is bad, your resulting insights will be worthless. For qualitative interviews, if your client would like to be in on the calls/chats, schedule their availability, as all the interviews will need to be based around these dates/times. If you’re conducting telephone or video based interviews, schedule your respondents, usually inside a spreadsheet. Ensure you leave enough time between interviews to allow for any issues that might present themselves. For focus groups or workshops, you’ll need to book the venues (meeting rooms or purpose built focus group facilities - that provide for one-way-mirror rooms). If you're using a standard meeting room, ensure you have the correct recording equipment, it’s in working order, and you know how to use it (there’s nothing worse than stalling a discussion because the equipment is not working)!

Step 7 - Carryout the Research A step that shouldn’t need explaining! Run your survey and/or carry out your interviews and/or focus groups.

Step 8 - Insights Once you have all your data, now it’s time to extrapolate some insights and create a report with the findings, which can be read and easily understood by interested stakeholders. 

Step 9 - Act upon your findings If everything’s gone smoothly (or at least as smooth as possible), you should now have some very interesting insights that either validate or contradict your initial theories (from the start ‘everyone’ has an opinion on what the research will find!) guiding you on the way forward. Well done if you’ve got this far. Give yourself a pat on the back. You should now be well aware of the importance market research should have within your business, and that it’s a complex job that needs to be carried out correctly and with expertise. Should you need a hand please do not hesitate to contact us or our Sister company MRFGR.

Market Research Methodologies - How To Conduct The Research

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