5 Minute Read

While no two market research projects are exactly the same, virtually every successful initiative will follow a similar structure. It’s a structure used by Fortune 50 companies all the way down to ambitious startups looking to shake up an industry, and it’s one that you can adopt for your business too. 

Today, we’re giving you an overview of what we believe to be an optimal market research process for 2022. It’s the process we use here at Cipher when working with our partners, and it’s based on well-established best practices that our team has honed over years of consulting with the world’s top organizations. It works for companies of all shapes and sizes, in all industries, and serves to bring a much-needed framework that transforms seemingly complex projects into a series of much more manageable tasks.

The process breaks down into five key stages. We’ll cover each briefly here, but for a much more in-depth look, we recommend you download our Ultimate Guide to Market Research

Our five key stages of the market research process are:

We’re going to walk you through each of these stages, exploring the role they play in the overall market research process, and sharing the best practices you should keep in mind at each stage. 

Market research plays a crucial role in defining high-level strategy at all of the world’s top organizations. But it’s an approachable topic, and it’s relatively easy for you to pick up the core principles––and structure––on your own. 

By applying this framework to your own organization, you’ll unlock the ability to run well-organized market research initiatives that help unearth insights that have the potential to be game-changing for your business. 

Let’s explore each of the five steps in more detail. 

Step 1: Defining The Objective

It’s important you have a clear definition of what success looks like for any given market research project. For the initiative to be successful, everyone has to be pulling in the same direction – from the managers overseeing the research to the individual employees administering surveys and conducting interviews.  

At the outset of the market research process, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of this research?
  • What specific questions do you want answered?
  • Do you have any existing hypotheses that you’d like to test through the research?

When defining the overarching objective for your research, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure success. You should only have one objective, and it should be specific – multiple objectives, or objectives that are too broad, can easily derail a project. 

Once you’re aligned with your objective, you’re ready to get started on the research process. 

Step 2: Exploratory Market Research

The vast majority of successful market research projects start with a phase of exploratory research. While this is a preliminary stage, it’s an important one that will guide the remainder of the research process. 

In this phase, the goal is to develop a series of hypotheses that can be tested systematically throughout the rest of the research process. Often, researchers (and companies) will already have preconceived hypotheses, and it’s important to validate these with potential customers. 

In practice, exploratory research often takes the form of interviews or focus groups. Create a loose agenda, but give your researchers the freedom to encourage participants to share their views on a variety of topics relevant to the research. 

By the conclusion of the exploratory research phase, you will have uncovered some new ideas, and validated some existing ones. Use these to develop a series of hypotheses that you can test more rigorously through primary market research methods. 

Step 3: Primary Market Research

Primary market research consists of a variety of techniques, which can be either quantitative or qualitative in nature. Generally, quantitative research tells researchers what is happening, and qualitative data tells them why it’s happening. Both are important in order to gain a full understanding of the research objective.

Quantitative methods produce raw data which can be analyzed systematically and usually take the form of surveys. There are a range of different survey designs you can use, including conjoint analysis, and TURF analysis, to name a few.

Qualitative research helps provide additional context around the findings of quantitative research. It’s characterized by the use of techniques like focus groups and individual interviews and enables free-flowing conversations that encourage participants to reveal the reasons and logic behind the opinions they hold.

It’s a widely accepted best practice to incorporate both quantitative and qualitative techniques when conducting primary research. This ensures that you, the researcher, understand not only what drives the decisions your customers make, but why they make these decisions. 

Step 4: Secondary Market Research

Secondary market research (also called desk research) is an important––but often discounted––aspect of the wider market research process. The most optimal approach to secondary market research is to conduct it on an ongoing basis from as many sources as possible, actively tracking all of the latest developments amongst your customers, competitors, and wider market. 

🔎 Related: Primary Market Research vs. Secondary Market Research

The value of secondary market research is often the context desk research adds to the findings gained from primary market research. To do this successfully, it’s important to consult existing bodies of data and research from a wide variety of sources. Here are some examples of potential data sources you may consult:

By consulting such a wide variety of sources, it’s possible to create a much more holistic understanding of the findings of your research and the broader market context in which they exist.

Proactively monitoring a broad range of sources is near impossible without the support of a market and competitive intelligence platform. Tools like Knowledge360 use sophisticated technology including AI algorithms and advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) to automatically monitor a huge range of secondary market research sources, summarizing the most insightful pieces of information into easy-to-read dashboards and email summaries. 

Step 5: Synthesizing and Presenting Findings

Even a small market research project can produce a large amount of data, it’s your job as a market researcher to make sense of your research. But simply pulling out key insights from your data isn’t enough – rather, you need to create a compelling narrative around your research that will ensure your organization actively leverages your findings. 

While your work might amount to dozens of pages of insight, it’s critical to distill this into a few high-level insights you can easily share with key stakeholders across your organization. Few executives have the time––or the inclination––to read lengthy reports, and for your research to have an impact on your organization, you have to master the ability to succinctly convey your key insights. 

🔎 Related: How to Create a Recurring CI Deliverable

Here are some best practices to bear in mind when it’s time to synthesize and present the output of your market research:

  • Select a few key takeaways, and make sure your audience fully understand them
  • Convey your findings in an appropriate format – whether that’s a one-pager, an email, slide deck, written report, or live dashboard
  • Incorporate visual elements like graphs and charts to enable your audience to grapes key figures and statistics more easily

Be sure to solicit feedback from your colleagues about how you can improve your market research deliverables. Remember, this entire process is only worthwhile if the knowledge you are unearthing is actively used during the decision-making process in your organization. 

Partner with Experts on the Market Research Process

If you’re only just starting to dip your toe into the world of market research, it can be easy to feel intimidated. After all, there are so many moving parts in any given market research initiative, and without an experienced team to navigate the process, it’s all too easy to end up more confused than you were at the start of the process. 

If this sounds familiar, the team at Cipher is here to help. We’ve got a team of in-house experienced market research consultants with proven track records of partnering with organizations in a wide variety of industries to successfully complete market research projects. With expertise in everything from exploratory research to cutting-edge techniques like prediction market research, our team is ready to partner with you on your next market research project. 

Want to learn more? Schedule a call with the team to learn more about the support available.