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Nine keys to successful market research

Dr. Michael Collette is Professor of Management in the Falls School of Business at Anderson (IN) University. Here is his list of ingredients that make for worthwhile market research.

In my former capacity as vice president for marketing and strategy at a university , I led a division which was increasingly dependent on reliable market research to fully comprehend vital information needed to make strategic marketing decisions.

We used research consultants to understand the forces driving our primary markets, seize opportunities to create new and attractive programs, and assess the resources and capabilities of our competitors. This information helped us develop strategy to enhance differentiation and competitive advantage. Some of our projects were very successful, while others did not provide results worth the cost.

The learning curve necessary to produce successful research outcomes may be lengthy, and may come at an undesirable cost. From my experience, I can identify and address nine factors that might help your projects produce results that succeed far beyond your expectations:

1. PASSIONATE PROJECT CHAMPION — You must have an internal champion for the project at hand. This person should have the authority on behalf of the organization to make decisions and access data and necessary information. The success of the entire project often depends on someone with the passion to truly take the organization to the next level.

2. GUIDING COALITION — The internal champion will likely not have the base of power, range of connections, or time to complete the project all on his/her own. There are often inherent barriers to research projects, because they will result in organizational change. Your project champion needs to be supported by a guiding coalition of colleagues.

3. FIT — Find a research provider who has a heart for your institutional mission. Having a “feel” for the organization and project at hand is an intangible benefit that will lead to both stronger and more reliable data, conclusions and recommendations.

4. TRUST — You need to trust–and verify–that the market researcher shares a commitment to strengthening the future of your organization.

5. PURPOSE — You must be very clear regarding the purpose of the study. Even the very best provider is hindered when clear purpose, or consensus for that purpose, is lacking. Metrics are far more reliable when research goals have been established around clear and common purpose.

6. IMMEDIACY — The window of opportunity to set goals, gather information, and begin to implement research-driven recommendations is limited. Opportunities produced through a marketing study have a “half-life.” Unnecessary delays negatively impact the benefits of all this good work.

7. EXECUTION — Research recommendations that aren’t executed generally result in an unused, nicely bound study sitting in the bottom of some grey file cabinet. In other words, a wasted project.

8. STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP — Commitment for the research project must be top-down. Beginning day one, the strategic leader must strongly communicate the
organization’s support for your project.

9. EXTENDED CONSULTANCY — There needs to be a commitment to considering an extended relationship with your external marketing consultant, who can walk alongside. This external source of accountability is often important for effective implementation of market research.