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How to Run a Successful Market Research Project (And the Pitfalls if You Don’t!) | Ian Cesa | Lunch & Learn


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There has never been a greater need for businesses to collect quality feedback and insight from key stakeholders on which their business depends upon: customers, users, donors, volunteers, etc. Knowing how to create and execute a successful market research project, as well as how to interpret the findings and then knowing what to do with them, is an absolute must. This Lunch and Learn will provide you with the knowledge and tools to develop and run an analytics project that will help you solve problems and improve your business.


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How to Run a Successful Market Research Project (And the Pitfalls if You Don’t!) | Ian Cesa | Lunch & Learn

  1. 1. How To Run an Effective Research or Analytics Project
  2. 2. Why Do “Research?” Research/analytics is: Feedback from any of the constituencies that your product or service serves – your consumers, your clients, your customers – whether B to B or B to C Why do it?: Because sometimes it is the only way to answer the questions or solve the problems you have More importantly, done well, it can provide you with the best solution • Objective – not based on someone’s prejudice or selective memory • Empirical – refers to evidence that is demonstrable • Verifiable – it doesn’t depend on who is looking at the evidence. The evidence stands on its own • Logical – the conclusions are connected to the evidence • Unassailable – if you agree with the logic, you must agree with the conclusions, even if you don’t like them! 3  At its most basic, research is about making important decisions based on what evidence tells you is true. • Facts have a habit of sticking around, unlike “fake news.”  And, it is not just collecting or analyzing data. It is about using the data to help you think clearly about your business
  3. 3. 4 This is What I am Talking About We use an active scientific process of arriving at the right answer • Clear Objectives • Well Thought Out Design & Methods • Extracting and Collecting Good Data • The Correct Analysis • Conclusions, Predictions and Extrapolations
  4. 4. Research/Analytics: A Continuous Feedback Loop Almost all the really important questions about constituencies fall into one of these categories: 5 Product/Service Development What to offer/sell, where, at what price? Communicating Effectively What are the right messages and how best to convey them? Keeping Score How did we do against our goals? Recognizing Trends Turning Them into Opportunities Developing Strategy Who to target and why?
  5. 5. Steps In An Effective Research/Analytics Project Focus on the questions you want to answer Come up with tentative answers based on what you know and what you think is happening Write a brief that majors in the questions and their possible answers Get help with execution from someone experienced Fast follow the research with an action plan Remember what you learn from the research 6
  6. 6. Come Up With Tentative Answers To Your Questions Most smart people who know their jobs have hunches about what the answers are • Articulating them is important • Don’t just assume that researchers/analysts can read your mind If you are trying to prove or disprove an answer, you are more likely to get to the truth than if you are on a fishing expedition • That you can build your action steps around. Tentative answers act as a guide for what to ask and who to ask it of, how to interrogate the data you have • They focus you on the most important issues – confirming or finding alternative answers to the key questions Think your questions and answers through logically – you might decide you already have the answers 7
  7. 7. Check Your Working Assumptions! 8 Case Study: “Exclusive Homes.”
  8. 8. 9 Case Study: Get Your Positioning Right
  9. 9. Steps In An Effective Research/Analytics Project Focus on the questions you want to answer Come up with tentative answers based on what you know and what you think is happening Write a brief that majors in the questions and their possible answers Get help with execution from someone experienced Fast follow the research with an action plan Remember what you learn from the research 10
  10. 10. Write a Detailed Research Brief Brief should contain: • Your questions • What you think the answers might be and why • Why the answers to these questions are important, or what decisions rest on the right answers • Timetable • Budget – even if just an upper limit on what you would spend Leave open – any methodological questions or analytical strategies, unless you know that the solution can only be found by approaching it in a certain way. 11
  11. 11. Get Outside Help and Hold Them Accountable 12 Analysts are also expected to develop the following skills during their time as analysts: •Understand fundamentals of research design Scientific vs. non-scientific explanation Difference between experimental and non-experimental designs oCommon types of research designs oSampling and assignment of respondents to treatment conditions Concept of experimental control Theoretical and operational definitions Internal and External Validity and threats thereto Measurement oLevels of measurement oReliability and Validity •Understand commonly used research designs in market research Establishing Position – Target and Benefit Identification Assessing marketing effectiveness Developing new products oConjoint analysis and other decomposition methods Simulation designs – e.g. for forecasting new products •Understand difference between qualitative and quantitative research and when to use each one •Questionnaire writing Be able to turn proposal language into questionnaire with the following attributes: oGathers all the data necessary for answering a question or solving a problem oEnables comparisons to existing data as available: Eg. Other studies – such as Sandelman for QSR research, Census Bureau for demographics oGathers data efficiently oGathers data with validity – minimizes threats to internal or external validity oWithin the time allotted in the cost estimate for the project •Statistics Basic sampling theory and practice - representativeness Relationship between statistics: oMeasurement oResearch design How to calculate descriptive statistics using either SPSS or S-Plus oMean, median, mode, standard deviation, standard error oCorrelation and other measures of association oRobust methods oConfidence intervals oTime series measurement statistics: Moving averages Smoothing functions Seasonal adjustment How to calculate the following inferential statistics oT-test (for nominal level and interval level data) oChi-square test of independence oOther univariate and bivariate statistical tests as appropriate for data collected.
  12. 12. Get Experienced Help If going to outside consultants: • Get proposals from 3 companies you think can do the work • Evaluate the proposals. Good proposals will do the following: • State clearly the problem to be solved or the question to be answered • Present a research method for doing so • Analytical plan – that links the research methods explicitly to the questions that are being answered • Detailed timing, including steps in the process and responsibilities for those steps • A budget estimate, including • What is included and not included in the cost estimated • Any assumptions or contingencies on which the budget is based • Who is going to work on the project, what their roles will be, and the elements of their qualifications and experience that are relevant to the project If you are going to do it yourself, get some advice on design and methods, and also on setting up the data for analysis. 13
  13. 13. Develop an Action Plan Quickly If the research/analytics does not lead to action, then probably better not to do it. Specific action steps as a result of the analytics will often be clear • Sometimes there is a long distance between research findings and action steps Explicitly articulate the action steps Do so quickly while the knowledge is still fresh • Knowledge decays quickly • The impetus for implementation wanes quickly too • Sometimes implementation takes a long time and people forget why they are doing things. Use the research firm to help you develop action steps • They might be able to help you with implications, but they will surely be able to help guide you about what not to do 14
  14. 14. Remember What You Learn From the Research Businesses are notoriously bad at institutional memory Research/analytics can often be used for purposes other than which it was intended. • But, it can’t if no one remembers what it was! Good business thinking builds on the knowledge that already exists • Sometimes you already have the answers if you know what you already have and do a bit of thinking Make sure that what you learn is widely known. Institutionalize the learning in important documents – annual reviews, situation analyses, future plans 15
  15. 15. In Sum Research/analytics can be the best tool you have for solving difficult problems, if you approach it correctly • It can save you money rather than cost you • And, it some cases, it can help you make more money than you thought! • It can certainly help you think better. Focus on the things that you can do well and hire help on the things you can’t • Articulating what the key questions are • And, what you think the answers might be Put a lot of effort into translating findings into action • Do it as soon as the project is finished • Do whatever you can to make sure your organization does not forget what you have done. 16