Backward research

It is very common to hear someone say: “On holiday we were strolling through a small town, and suddenly we ran into this very cute restaurant. What a coincidence!” Is this not the same way as we think about suddenly running into a great consumer insight? Then we forget that a lot of the great things we encounter on holidays are actually a result of hard work: finding a hotel with strong wifi and a pool, deciding which museums to visit or which mountain to climb. Creating good consumer and/or shopper insights is hard work just as much.

Often the briefings I get for market research proposals, are way too broad. The marketeer wants to know “everything”, to find new knowledge and find out what they are overlooking.

I prefer to use the backward research methodology. This means starting with creating the final research presentation. What kind of conclusions and recommendations will you present to key stakeholders? What will the actual charts in the preceding slides look like? Of course, you do not know the answers yet, but you can decide on the topics of recommendation and the form and content of the tables and graphs. And from there: define your research architecture.

Three objections may arise when I propose this method.

  1. It feels like cheating, like you will steer to the preferred answers during the research. If you feel like this, great! You have the best critical mindset to go along with this method. Think about how often a research report in the past contained a table that is just not what you were looking for. Or the conclusions your agency presented do not contain the recommendations you were looking for. Think about the first presentation as the rehearsal: if you would present this, would it answer your questions? If not, change it -> this might change the research architecture.
  2. It feels it takes longer to start, because where you start normally, is now about halfway during the project. The advantage is of course, that it takes a lot shorter to finish!
  3. It is harder to get the proposal approved, because it is not sure in advance what type of research is needed (and therefore the budget cannot always be fixed).

With the objectives out of the way, here are four advantages of the backward market research approach.

  • The first and most important one is of course that you get the report and management summary you actually are looking for, with clear actions you need to take next
  • It sharpens your thinking and helps you to define what you really want to know (and what is nice to have)
  • It is much easier to sell the research proposal to senior management
  • Shorter questionnaires, which is a good thing for a lot of reasons

Speaking of holidays, it looks like we won’t have many this year. Now might be the time to take on that big research question which seems so hard. I can help you with this: creating smarter, more insightful and actionable research. I have more than 20 years of practical in-market experience, am very fast and fun to work with. I have the tools and ways of working to handle a project from start to finish fully online, without losing effectiveness.

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