The CMA offers a course in Research and Analytics over the next 12 weeks that I’m taking as a refresher (most of what I know about research is self taught and that leaves me exposed to blind spots). Wednesday night was the first class and it was the typical “first class” content – introduction to the instructors, the material, the outline, etc. We did cover one of the most essential aspects of research though, and that is “asking the right question.”
Ask the right question
In her book, Strategic Marketing Research, A Guide to Conducting Research that Drives Business, Anne Beall talks about the same problem, specifically the difference between a broad, “boil the ocean”, type of question that will generate poor or trivial results, and a targeted question that attempts to get at a specific issue. In the world of limited budgets and time the results from a set of targeted questions will result in much higher business value than a large, rambling, far reaching research project to “find out what customers want.”
Another key insight from the class was the insight that you need to involve all the stakeholders in the project when designing the study. If you don’t achieve buy-in there can be issues later, especially with debates about the validity or relevance of the research.
As an aside, another insight was to always focus debate on the methodology, before the research is done, rather than the results. Debating the methodology allows the root causes to be flushed out before the work is done, avoids costly mistakes, and also avoids spurious debates about relevance after the fact.
Discrete vs. ongoing research
Some research projects are one-time events that answer specific questions. These discrete projects can be used to generate specific findings that influence specific business decisions. The common types of research here are:
Other projects need to be ongoing. Ongoing research allows the organization to develop and maintain its view of the customer, hopefully across all channels. This unified view of the customer uses many inputs to generate “personas” and/or “dashboards” to continuously remind the organization for whom they are working.
- Monitoring customer forums (owned or 3rd party)
- Ongoing customer satisfaction surveys
- Employee feedback
- Ongoing social listening
So that was our first class. I’ll be posting more information as we go through the various topics as we travel through them:
- Questionnaire design
- And more…