An Introduction to Market Research Techniques – Telephone Research

Telephone Market Research is a primary market research technique used to administer surveys. This allows people, either from the consumer or the business community, to be interviewed remotely on a given subject.

A well designed telephone survey can provide excellent information and will allow the interviewer to collect useful details in a non-leading but detailed way. Normally a telephone survey will comprise predominantly of closed questions that are easily measured, with a small number of open questions to expand on certain answers.

Detailed sampling can allow interviewees to be targeted who fit a specific criteria for the research project. This may be based on experience, areas of interest, age, gender, location, job title, type of business, buying habits or other measurable criteria.

Typically an interview will last between 1 minute and 20 minutes – any longer and the interviewer is at risk of losing the interviewees attention and good will in participating in the research.

Using the telephone means that geography is not an issue. Even language is not a barrier with many research agencies employing trained linguists or international researchers as part of their team.

Whilst telephone market research is normally more costly than undertaking surveys via the post or online, candidates are more likely to participate if asked directly, and are more inclined to complete the survey in full with a researcher encouraging them. This is frequently a preferred method used in many research projects.

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An introduction to Market Research Techniques 1 – Desk Research

Desk Research, or Secondary Research as it is often referred to, is the compilation and analysis of data and research that already exists, from internal or external sources. This can include information from existing reports, publications, industry surveys, Government studies, libraries and other published documentation.

The Web is a great resource for external sources of information, with many publications available. Some are free to access whilst others may have significant costs associated with them, particularly for up-to-date reports where considerable time and resource have been used to undertake a study.

Whilst the information identified by Desk Research cannot normally be customised to a new research brief, it can provide valuable general information on areas such as industry profiles, trends, and  of course demographics.

Desk Research is a useful place to start most research projects, enabling you to understand what information or knowledge already exists on the subject you are interested in and allowing you to then build upon this knowledge with primary research.  It should be noted that because the results are based upon others findings, unless they are from a reputable source such as from Government Statistics, you cannot guarantee the accuracy unless you back it up with your own primary research.

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Reduce your Market Research Costs 3 – combine external support with internal resources

Professional market research agencies are experts in their field. However, before you commission a project consider (realistically based upon your project time-frame) what resources and expertise you already have in-house that could help with the study.

A good agency will be happy to work alongside an internal team, providing support in the areas that are needed rather than taking over the whole project. Naturally, you will need to discuss your intentions when you are asking agencies to quote for the project, but once they have discussed your information need and established the best approach to ensure the project delivers your end objective, the agency should then be able to provide you with some key options:

  • Employ them to simply undertake the research and return the raw data for you to interpret in-house, or
  • Employ them to also analyse the results and return the data accompanied by key charts and a narrative for you to fully interpret in-house, or
  • If you don’t have the expertise (or frequently the time) to conduct the full interpretation they will provide this and even help you create a strategy if it is called for.

Employing help where you require it will mean that you will only pay for the external support you need.

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Reduce your Market Research Costs 2 – local universities like real experience

An excellent, and often free, market research resource can be the business department of your local university. They like to give their students real market research experience and are normally happy to have the opportunity to work alongside a local business.

Because you will not be working with an experienced and professional team market research team you do need to follow the process closely. Have a firm idea of your research objectives before you start, and ensure that they are being met appropriately as the project progresses.

If you do not have previous experience of conducting such a market research study, it may be useful to bounce the approaches (including the methodology, target frame, suitability of questionnaire content and the students’ analysis techniques and interpretation) off someone with experience in this area.  Even if this costs you a day of an experts time over the duration of your study, this investment will provide you with added confidence in the final results, and you will still finish with a lower cost project.

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Reduce your Market Research Costs 1 – make use of pre-existing studies

Depending upon the sample frame you are targeting, and the type of information you are looking to collect, you may well find that someone else is already conducting a market research study that you can add a few questions to.  Many are ongoing studies that continually collate data and report their results weekly, monthly or quarterly.

There are many Omnibus studies of this nature being conducted in the UK or wider afield at any one time. Frequently they are targeted at specific consumer groups, certain areas of the business communities or educational establishments.

This type of research can cost you less than undertaking your own fully blown market research project, however you may need to participate knowing that you are unlikely to find a study that exactly matches your requirement, and you may need to be a little selective about the specific results you use.

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Explaining the Jargon in Market Research 3 – Gap Analysis

Gap Analysis is a tool which helps a business compare its actual market position with where it would like to be. Whilst this can be used at many different levels within a company, from a sales and marketing viewpoint Gap Analysis can be used to make a company significantly more profitable by selling smarter through being more informed.

Whatever the focus of the Gap Analysis, a good study will start by mining existing data such as sales by product or service group, accounting data including payment times, profitability by product or service set, total market opportunities, competitor market shares etc. In-depth analysis techniques will then be used to identify not simply the gaps that a company isn’t currently selling into, but which are the most profitable opportunities that can be approached first in order to increase profitability without increasing sales.

A further step, which is often the hardest for a company to adopt, is to analyse existing customers to identify those that do not mirror the most profitable opportunities identified within the gap analysis study.  This may identify accounts which are actually costing money to support, allowing strategic decisions to be made such as which accounts to continue servicing and which to drop.

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Explaining the Jargon in Market Research 2 – Qualitative or Quantitative Research

In a nutshell market research falls into two categories; qualitative research which focuses on opinions and gathering background information, and quantitative research which builds upon the qualitative research providing measurable and statistically valid facts and figures.

To expand upon this; Qual, or qualitative research, is an exploratory approach used to uncover issues and areas of interest using open questions and is generally not measurable. This typically uses an in-depth ‘probing’ approach with smaller numbers of participants such as panels, focus groups or one-to-one interviews. This is frequently used to create the focus of a research project, allowing more in-depth quant research to then be conducted.

Quant, or quantitative research, frequently follows on from the explorative qual research, using a larger sample frame and focusing on measurable output that can be analysed statistically rather than open ended questions. Typical quant approaches include online questionnaires, telephone interviews or short street interviews and provides output that can be usefully analysed. Analysis will be specific to the purpose of the research but good examples may be that the results are broken down by elements such as by the type, age or job function of the respondent, the type and size of the business they represent, or their geography.

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Explaining the Jargon in Market Research 1 – Primary or Secondary Research

There are two main types of market research; Primary Research or Secondary Research. These are simple to distinguish between.

Primary Research is where you gather information that does not already exist. This may be used because the information required does not already exist, does not match the exact requirements of a research need, or the information needs updating. Conducting primary research allows you greater control over the final results, as well as the timescale, the size and the location of the research.

Secondary Research, or as it is commonly referred to Desk Research, is the compilation and analysis of data and research that already exists, be it from internal or external sources. This can include information from existing reports, publications, industry surveys, Government studies, libraries and other published documentation. Whilst the information cannot normally be customised to a new research brief, it can provide valuable general information on areas such as industry profiles, trends, and  of course demographics. Frequently this is a useful place to start a research project; enabling you to understand what information or knowledge already exists on the subject you are interested in and allowing you to then build upon this knowledge with primary research.

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Market Research Applications – Using qualitative research to gain real insight

Market research is often seen as ‘just asking a few questions – how hard can it be?’  And this can be true if it’s a simple, nice-to-know, information gathering exercise, for example finding out the favoured choice of evening class at the local village hall.

Yet when it’s necessary to obtain deep customer insights to inform important business decisions, a more professional research approach is often required, using research specialists. The role of a qualitative researcher is not to measure how many people say X or Y, in a large-scale quantitative exercise.  Their job is more about understanding why people say certain things – their underlying thoughts, feelings and attitudes, by speaking to smaller numbers of people, but in real depth.  This can take the form of focus groups or one-to-one interviews.

Very often the skill is in making sense of what people are not saying, reading their body  language, digging below the surface, tactfully and skillfully eliciting their true thoughts and feelings through a variety of specialist techniques.  Their top of mind answers are generally just the tip of the iceberg; it’s what lies beneath that provides the real insight, allows companies to really tap into their customers’ needs, and enables them to respond in ways that keep them ahead of the competition.

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Market Research Applications – Corporate Reputation Studies

As they say, image is everything! Presenting the right corporate image and ensuring you have the right reputation in your market place can have a huge impact not only on sales but also the overall success of your business. That is why Corporate Image Market Research is such a valuable tool.

Understanding what image you are giving out, and your reputation in your market place, is important.  This needs to be measured not only from your customers point of view, but your potential customers in addition to your lost customers. Add to this what is important to them when working with or buying from you or your competitors and you can measure your reputation against the areas that are most going to influence not only your businesses image, but the strength of your brand.

Corporate Image Research or Reputation Studies are becoming increasingly popular and are moving from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’ information for many businesses. Whilst they can be undertaken in-house, employing a research agency to conduct the reputation and image research is often a popular choice, ensuring regular and accurate updates.

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