Market research is the process of gathering information about a specific market, including its customers, competitors and industry trends. It involves collecting and analysing data to help businesses make informed decisions about their products or services.
In previous articles, we’ve spoken about the importance of conducting primary market research in Africa and the indicators of good-quality research. In this article are the steps business leaders should take when thinking about their need for market research. Ideally, these steps should be undertaken by the company internally and then refined with a market research service provider, such as In On Africa (IOA).
1. Clarify purpose and core research questions
Most market research is undertaken for one or more of the following reasons:
- to grow the business,
- to better understand customer needs and preferences,
- to improve or test products and services,
- to identify market opportunities and threats,
- to understand the competitor landscape,
- to develop marketing strategies, and
- to evaluate customer satisfaction.
A critical first step is to identify the main purpose for your research and then to determine what the core questions are that need to be answered in order to address the main purpose.
Some questions that can guide you include:
- What is the problem we are trying to address?
- What do we want to achieve with this market research?
- Who are the people we are interested in gaining more insight into?
- What type of information or data are we interested in?
- What information do we already have on the research topic?
- What questions do we need answers to?
- How quickly do we need this research completed?
- What decisions will this research help to inform?
2. Create a project team
Once people within the organisation have agreed on the need for market research and have a broad understanding of the research purpose and questions, they should begin consulting the relevant people within the business: the stakeholders.
The stakeholders refer to the people who have a direct or indirect interest in the results of the research. Some key stakeholders include the marketing team, sales team, product development team and those who understand and implement the businesses growth strategy.
Not all project team members will play the same role. Some will be involved in the roll out of the research, others will be consulted periodically during the research process, and some may only be included in the initial conceptualisation or in the presentation of the results.
Having a team of people interested in the research helps to keep the research alive, keeps the research top-of-mind and creates relationships to discuss the anticipated utility of the research once the results are presented.
3. Discuss and document the utility of the research
Once the purpose of the research has been clarified and the project team are in agreement on the need for market research, it is important to discuss and document what the research findings will be used for. No matter how good the quality of the research is, if there is no plan to implement the findings of the research, it’s worth is lost.
It may be useful for teams to meet independently to brainstorm and document how the findings will relate to their service area or department. It may also be valuable for inter-disciplinary teams to meet to discuss more generally how the research aligns with the business’s overall strategy. While the utility of the research can be an organic process that grows and changes as the thinking on the research becomes clearer, having an initial list of clear actionable steps that may follow from the research is ideal.
4. Develop a research scope and request for proposal
This is a key step that many companies don’t do, and it makes our job, as a research company, much more difficult than it needs to be. A request for proposal (RFP) is a document that outlines the requirements and specifications of the research project. The contents of the RFP can vary depending on the complexity and scope of the project. However, common components include the points covered in 1-3 above and can also include the background and context for the research, requirements for interested research suppliers, such as their relevant experience, required project timelines and budget.
Once these four steps have been undertaken, your organisation is ready to send out their RFP to potential research partners. Following contracting of the selected research partner, these steps will be repeated, and the project scope refined, driven by the business’s needs and combined with the expertise of the research company.
Careful planning and consideration before any research project begins is important to ensure that the research objectives are met, that the project team are satisfied with the scope of research and that organisational members are clear on how to make optimum use of the research findings.