How Much Research Do You Need To Do?

Moving forward with communication tactics without a good understanding of the target audience, their current attitudes and beliefs and the drivers that might lead them to positive action relative to your product or service is never a good idea.

On the other hand, many companies – particularly small companies – don’t have the time or resources to invest in expensive research activities.

It’s a conundrum – but one that can be addressed along a continuum that can help you balance risk and reward. You will never have a 100% go/no go decision based on any level of research. If you did, we’d all be wealthy beyond our wildest dreams! The best you can do is to minimize the risk you have by gaining progressively more information about your target audience based upon the time, money and “brain power” (e.g. internal or external expertise) resources you  have available to you.

In determining what type and what level of research activities to consider, here are some questions to ponder:

1) How risky is the tactic you’re considering? Sometimes “just doing it” can be research enough if the price is right. Trying an email blast to a specific target group to promote a new offer can be relatively inexpensive – so inexpensive, in fact, that doing research to see whether or not you should do it might cost more than simply doing it! On the other hand, developing a several-thousand dollar multi-media campaign involves significantly more risk and might benefit from some investment in research to determine whether your messaging, offer, etc. will resonate with your target audience.

2) How much do you already know? Many businesses fail to take advantage of the information they have readily available through existing records about customer activities. Mine your own existing data – at no cost but your time – to give you some insights into who your customers are. And, if you don’t already have good data on hand, take steps to start collecting information that can help you learn more about the customers you currently serve – so you can go out and look for more people like them.

3) How much can you learn from others? It’s not always necessary to conduct primary research. There may be sources of secondary research (information gathered by others) that may be relevant to your target audience. Granted, the secondary information may not specifically address your product, or your geography or the specific traits of your desired audience, but sometimes something is better than nothing at all.

4) What resources do you  have at your disposal? Do you have internal staff with expertise (or interest) in market research? Do you have access to local resources – perhaps from area universities – to provide low-cost/no-cost support? Do you “know someone” with experience in research that you might “trade services” with? Consider your options and the cost of those options compared to the risk of moving forward without solid information.

In business, we always have a certain level of risk we deal with in every decision we make. The goal is to make “well-reasoned” decisions based on the information we have available. The *key* is to not overlook available information or access to low-cost information that can significantly reduce the amount of that risk.

The more you know – the more you grow.