Two weeks ago Ben discussed the benefits of an organization choosing data over discomfort when executing a marketing plan to assist in business planning and development; and for communicators, this meant having a clear direction as to what needs to be said to obtain the maximum desired impact. Testing ideas and messages and having scientific data to support the desired outcomes provides certainty that one path is clearly more effective than another rather than relying on a ‘gut feeling’ or your Jedi ‘force’ powers.
At an absolute minimum, ten percent of your marketing budget should be devoted to some sort of a research program. Arguably, research itself isn’t going to solve everything, but it offers organizations a degree of confidence and certainty of the mood of their target audience prior to the approval of the annual budget in an untested environment.
Research programs can fall into quantitative or qualitative research streams or, generally, a combination of the two to provide different types of insights into the attitudes or satisfaction of the target audience toward a particular product, issue, or service. Research can also come from secondary research, which is a method of gathering data from publicly available pre-existing sources. A carefully designed research program gathers a significant amount of both primary and secondary data to investigate a particular problem or test a theory or product.
Qualitative research is used to gain insights from people’s intentions and perceptions and the important reasons behind those attitudes, which allows for a more fulsome understanding of their opinions on topics than is generally possible with a quantitative methodology.
On the other hand, quantitative research follows a systematic approach to collect and analyze data, which can be inferred to the general public with a high level of statistical confidence and certainty. Not only does selecting the right research methodology impact the outcomes of the research, but also the size and sources of the research subjects in the study. It should be noted that sample sources are an essential component of research design that needs to be discussed at the early phases of designing a research program and can have a material impact on the research budget.
But what are the right questions to ask your publics? Sometimes they can be very clear from the types of touchpoints of an organization, such as programs and services or performance measures. Questions can also vary by the type of research population being investigated, such as the general public, members or customers, stakeholders or donors. Often, there may be additional research required to understand what the underlying issues might be. Some examples of questions asked include ones framed to understand the timeliness of service, the person’s intention to use a product or service again, or willingness to recommend the organization to family or friends.
If you’re interested in learning more about developing a research program for your organization, contact us and we can certainly discuss some research options to guide you into better knowing your audience(s) – whether it be to test a theory or concept, or provide a high level of statistical confidence to support an idea or concept. We can work within your budget to design actionable research to get the data you need.