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.

Why we strive toward short surveys

The mission of Spinos is to answer your business questions in the smartest possible way. One of the consequences of this, is that we always strive toward short surveys. Here are seven reasons why we always reduce the questions we ask consumers as much as possible:

  • Cost reduction

The financial argument is of course very predictable. Respondents are paid based on the length of the questionnaire, and on top of that: there’s less analysing to be done with less questions. A large budget reduction!

  •  Better data quality

Respondents fill in shorter questionnaires significantly better. Less of them only click on the middle of a scale, responses are more consistent. And about (Likert)scales: please stop using them wherever possible. And also, don’t cheat by trying to force three questions into one. Both options give you less qualitative respons.

  • Lower non-response bias

Consumers finish shorter questionnaires more often, which gives a huge reduction of non-response bias. Researches with a list of 5 questions get 5% non-completes, when you bore your respondents with 40 questionnaires, this rises to 20%. (source: Surveymonkey)

  • The respondent will feel better afterwards

After a long and tedious questionnaire, your respondent will remain with a negative feeling. As your research presumably is about your category and/or brand, this negative feeling will be associated with your products/brands. That’s really something you want to avoid.

  • More focus on what you really want to know

You know the feeling, when you finally can start your research project, the whole company wants to add more questions. But are they “need to know” or  “nice to know”? Restricting yourself to a short survey, forces you to stay critical and only add those questions that make you change your strategy.

  • Agile way of working: interpret and implement results gradually

Very large surveys offer a lot of information and insights. In my opinion, só much, that your organisation will never be able to process them all and put them into action. Often, I review all market reseach of the last five years for one of my customers, and I find answers to questions they want to re-research, or insights they “forgot” and that are incorporated again into their yearly plans. A better approach is to split your budget and rather execute four small researches in one year that lead to profitable growth, than one big research of which (more than) half of the information is not used at all.

  • Responsibility towards your co-researchers

We market researchers are extremely dependent on consumers willing to respond. Not only in panels, but also via email or websites. After every buy, we get an email to give our opinion. Sometimes I’m checking my email in a restaurant during a coffee after a nice dinner, and I am already being asked to write a review about something that has not even ended yet! Let’s take our responsibility together and make sure consumers do not get “research tired”!